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THE LIBRARY 
OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



THE STORY OF PURTON 



THE 
STORY OF PURTON 



Collection of ^(otes and Hearsay 

GATHERED BY 

ETHEL M. RICHARDSON 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 




BRISTOL 
J. W. ARROWSMITH LTD., n QUAY STREET 

LONDON 
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & COMPANY LIMITED 

1919 



$0 

THE DEAR MEMORY OF 

MERVYN STRONGE RICHARDSON, 

CAPTAIN 1ST BATTALION ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS, 
BY HIS MOTHER 



871233 



\ 



CONTENTS 



Chapter Page 

I. EARLY DAYS . . . . . t . II 

II. STORIES OF PURTON THE DE VESCIS, DE 

PERITONES, PAYNELLS AND KEYNES . ' *5 

III. FOREST RIGHTS COLLEGE FARM THE HYDE 

FAMILY ....... 21 

IV. REFORMATION CHANGES INTERESTING EVENTS 

CHURCH ALES ST. GEORGE'S CULT . . 25 
V. THE MASKELYNE FAMILY ... 34 
VI. PURTON CHURCH OLD INDENTURES . . 38 
VII. AN ANCIENT RECORD OF PURTON OLD FAMILIES 
A MYSTERY THE " ANCREN RIWLE " OLD 

PURTON FOLK -53 

VIII. OLD TITHES AND PORTIONS CRICKET MILLS 

CHARITIES ...... 62 

IX. PURTON HOUSE THE MANOR HOUSE . '. 69 
X. THE OLD VICARAGE "A FACULTY" RESTROP 

HOUSE ....... 77 

XI. WATKINS' CORNER PRESENT-DAY RESIDENTS 

STOKE "CURLY TOM" .... 82 

XII. PARISH LAWS, 1733 SEVERE PENALTIES . Q2 

XIII. LYDIARD MANOR HOUSE MR. MACKNIGHT A 

GHOST STORY THE SMOCK-FROCK " GRUBB- 
ING THE MOOTS " . . . -95 

XIV. RED LODGE MR. SADLER'S RECOLLECTIONS 

OLD COINS "YOU COME FROM PURTON" . IOI 
XV. PURTON FAIR THE BONFIRE THE PLAY CLOSE 

THE BIND HOUSE .... 107 

XVI. BRADEN FOREST PARISH BOUNDARIES (BY MRS. 

STORY-MASKELYNE) ..... 118 
XVII. THE " WORD ALE " GOSPEL OAK . . . 132 
XVIII. "THE ANGEL" REMOUNT DEPOT WAR WORK 
DEATH OF REV. JOHN VEYSEY INDUCTION OF 
REV. R. B. HARRISON . . X . - . 138 

APPENDIX ROLL OF HONOUR WITH DATES . 143 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

ST. MARY'S CHURCH, PURTON, MANOR HOUSE, AND OLD 

COTTAGES ...... Frontispiece 

Face page 

CHIMNEY-PIECE IN COLLEGE FARM, PURTON . . 21 

PURTON, WILTS (Old Print] 47 

ST. MARY'S CHURCH, PURTON, BEFORE RESTORATION . 47 

OLD MRS. COOK 59 

" CURLY TOM," DIED AGED 104 59 

PURTON HOUSE, WILTSHIRE, 1917, FROM " THE GREEN 

WALK" 69 

THE GREAT CEDAR, PURTON HOUSE .... 69 

THE MANOR HOUSE, PURTON, NORTH FRONT . . 74 

THE MANOR HOUSE, PURTON, SOUTH FRONT . . 74 

RESTROP HOUSE, PURTON 79 

THE HALL, RESTROP HOUSE 79 

PURTON HOUSE, 1800 (from a contemporary sketch by 

Mrs. Story-Maskelyne) ..... 107 



FOREWORD 

MY little volume has outgrown my first intention, for as time 
went on, and the fact that a story of Purton was being written 
became known, I received notes and imormation beyond 
what I had been led to expect was possible. The piecing of 
it together has helped me to live through the saddest year of my 
life, and I trust that what I have collected may interest others, 
and perhaps arouse in them some of the enthusiasm and love for 
Purton which it has in me. I have quoted freely from several 
volumes of Wilts Notes and Queries, and from Mr. Ponting's 
delightful pamphlet on the Church, which was written for the 
Wilts Archceological Magazine. I have also to acknowledge 
help from the Rev. Edward H. Goddard in allowing me to 
quote from this magazine, and also for correcting and assisting 
me in preparing my MSS. for publication. The volumes I 
have chiefly consulted are Britton's Beauties of Wilts, Aubrey's 
Wiltshire Collections, The New British Traveller, and an old 
volume called Parish Laws, published in 1733, and given to me 
by Mr. H. Dash. 

I was also fortunate in having had talks with our late 
Vicar, and from him received valuable notes and newspaper 
cuttings. My thanks are also due to Mrs. Story-Maskelyne, 
Miss Maud Prower, Mrs. Atkinson, and Miss Walsh, and to 
Canon Livingstone, Canon Manley, the Rev. R. B. Harrison, 
Mr. Josiah Haskins, Mr. Wilding and Mr. Frank Kempster. 
Mr. Lee Osborn assisted me in the Clarendon chapter ; 
and I mast not conclude without my husband's name, who 
gave me much sympathy and encouragement in my task. 

E. M. R. 
March zjth, 1917. 



The Story of Purton 



CHAPTER I 



EARLY DAYS 

WHICHEVER way one looks from Purton, the eye is charmed 
by the view. To the north there is the wide prospect of gently- 
undulating hills, and broad meadows richly wooded, and 
Cricklade Church a bold landmark in the middle distance. 
On the other sides there lies a typically English rural country- 
side, curiously winding roads and green lanes, as though there 
had been in the old days plenty of time, and no need to hurry 
to one's destination. 

There are many quaint houses jutting in and out, without 
any order or scheme, and in consequence a prospect so restful 
and homelike. We cross the church field, and find a picture 
of rare historical and archaeological interest in the group 
of buildings before us. 

First comes the Great Barn, then the Manor House, and 
beyond the magnificent structure of our glorious Church, 
with its western tower and central spire. 

This fine and stately building stands with its surrounding 
graveyard thickly studded by the resting-places of those 
villagers who, having accomplished their "lifelong task of 
living," have gone for ever from the scene of their labours. 

Parish churches with a western tower and centra] spire 
are very rare. Three only exist in England to-day, one at 
Wanborough and one at Ormskirk, both interesting churches, 
but the writer can testify to the greater beauty and symmetry 
of the Purton edifice. 

In the dim and distant past the great Forest of Braden is 
supposed to have covered almost the whole of the northern 
division of the county ; but of those dense woods, once the 

ii 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

home of wolves and other wild animals, scarcely a vestige 
remains, and the ancient spelling is only perpetuated in 
Bradenstoke Abbey this is a mediaeval building which 
stands on the edge of that long sweep of hills once the 
natural south-western boundary of the forest and in Braden 
Pond, a large sheet of water near the village of Minety. * 

The name of Purton, which is of Saxon origin, and signifies 
" The pear-tree enclosure," is spelt in a variety of ways in 
the old deeds which mark the passing of the ;years Peritone, 
Periton, Pureton, Puriton, Puryton, Pirton, and even Purrton, 
but the old Peritone is certainly the prettier and more 
distinctive name, as Porton and a Pirton occasionally cause 
trouble to the Post Office authorities, especially when the 
address on a letter is indistinctly written. 

The oldest thing that human hands have made at Purton 
is Ringsbury Camp. It has been called a Roman Camp, 
but is much older, as its shape at once forbids this theory. a 
No Roman general ever encamped his troops except in a 
regular rectangular camp. Also it is away from the great 
lines of roads which the Romans made between great centres 
such as Corinium (Cirencester) and Aquae Solis (Bath). 

It is doubtless of the same age as the camps on the Downs. 
It is likely that these camps were places of refuge for a time of 
danger, each for its own tribe or neighbourhood. 

The great camp at Avebury probably dates from 1500 to 
2000 B.C., at the end of the Neolithic and beginning of the 
Bronze Age (the recent excavations go to prove this), and 
Avebury was no doubt an " ancient monument " when Caesar 
came to Britain. Probably aU the stone circles were connected 
with worship or observation of the heavenly bodies. In the 
light of present-day history it is instructive to note that we are 
told by no less an authority than Caesar that " the Germans 
(those beyond the Rhine) had no gods or sacrifices but what 
they could see, the Sun, Moon, and Fire, and such is natural 
if all revelation of religion were lost." Anyhow, at Ringsbury 
at various times Roman coins, and once a millstone, have 
been unearthed. 

During the sixth century Wiltshire experienced the full 

1 Wilts Notes and Queries. * Mr. MacKnight. 

12 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

force of the Saxon invasion, and the country round Purton 
was the scene of many desperate engagements. 

Towards the close of the seventh century the Christian 
King Cedwalla, who ruled the West Saxons, laid the foundation 
of the Abbey of Malmesbury, and amongst the earliest grants 
made to that religious house 1 was one bestowing thirty-five 
hides in Purton, comprising the chief Manor and the Rectory. 
Under the heading of Purton are the words : " Terra est XXXV 
hyd de orientali parte silvae quae dicitur Bradon Hac dedit 
Chedwalla rex, Aldhelmo Abbati." 

There is another grant of land in Purton made by Egeferth, 
the Mercian King, A.D. 796, and subscribed to by a king of the 
West Saxons, Beorhtrich by name. As it states that the Mercian 
King Egeferth makes it, having been requested to do so by 
Beorhtrich, King of the West Saxons, it seems probable that 
Wessex had become tributary to Mercia. But a darker hour 
was yet in store. The Danes under Guthrum " burst into the 
territory of Wilsaetas," took the royal town of Chippenham, 
and from thence harried the surrounding country. 

In 905 they " put to military execution all Brithendune as 
far as Bradenstoke," and seized, either in Braden or thereabouts, 
all they could lay their hands on. Year after year the awful 
spectacle was repeated, and the ceaseless series of invasions in 
which Wiltshire played so prominent a part continued until 
the Conqueror's strong hand gave the stricken country peace 
at last. a 

Mr. Mac Knight (once of Purton and Lydiard Millicent, and 
of whom more anon) wrote in 1886 as follows : 

" Pavenhill I consider more interesting than Ringsbury. 
Canon Prower told me that it was a Danish encampment, and 
that his father had received that tradition. This would carry 
it (tradition) back more than 120 years, and most likely it came 
down regularly from generation to generation to his time from the 
fact itself. It is certain that the hill is escarped in two places, 
and this might have been done as a temporary defence, not as 
a permanent military station. Then just below it you have 
' Battle Lake/ which name would connect that strong position 
with some engagement, and, if the tradition of ' Danish encamp- 
ment ' be true, it would be between the Danes and Saxons. 

1 See Chapter xvi. * Wilts Notes and Queries. 

13 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Now Alfred defeated Gothrum 878, and according to William 
of Malmesbury required him to be baptised, standing as his 
sponsor, and then gave him East Anglia as a kingdom tributary 
to himself, and the Saxon Chronicle says that in 879 this army 
went to Cirencester from Chippenham (near which he had 
been conquered), and stayed a year there before moving 
eastward. In that march they would pass through Purton to 
avoid Orwolder (Braden Forest), and the engagement at 
' Battle Lake ' (then undoubtedly undrained) might then have 
taken place. At least you have the tradition of a Danish 
encampment, and a battlefield below it, and the historic fact 
of the defeat of Gothrum at Eddington, and the march of the 
Danish army (879) from Chippenham to Cirencester. Put all 
these things together, and do your best to give body to the 
old tradition and re-people the old places. Canon Prower was 
strong in his belief that the Danes were at Pavenhill, and, 
if so, it must have been about that time, A.D. 879." * 

From this account it would appear that Battle Lake lay 
in the low-lying land immediately below the above-mentioned 
" strong position," and the quaint name of Pond's Gutter which 
is given to a stream which flows to-day beneath the road in 
that direction may possibly be derived from its waters having 
in those old days helped to feed Battle Lake. 

1 Letter to Mr. J. H. Sadler. 



CHAPTER II 

STORIES OF PURTON THE DE VESCIS, DE PERITONES, 
PAYNELLS AND KEYNES 

" BISHOP ALDHELM, the former landlord of Purton, was no 
ordinary man. Amongst other miracles wrought by him, was 
the lengthening of a beam of wood by virtue of his prayers. 
Then it is asserted that the ruins of a church built by him, 
though open to the skies, were never wet with rain during the 
worst weather. His clothes also were not of the human cut, for 
when Aldhelm on one occasion was at Rome one of his garments 
remained for a time self-suspended in mid-air, after the fashion, 
it is to be presumed, of Mahomed's coffin. But whether or not 
Aldhelm had the gift of performing miracles or not, it is quite 
certain he was no ordinary man. Martineau in his Church 
History thus refers to him : 

" ' Aldhelm was one of the earliest of English poets, and 
made his art subservient to the higher office of instructing 
the people in the knowledge of the Gospel. Having composed 
tales and ballads in the Saxon tongue on subjects likely to be 
of popular interest, he used to station himself on a bridge, 
or at the junction of cross roads, 1 and there sing his poems to 
the harp, till he had collected an audience, then, having charmed 
their ears with music, he took occasion to give them spiritual 
instruction for their souls. Aldhelm, moreover, had an extensive 
knowledge of the Greek and Latin tongues, and the Canon of 
Roman law. For this he was in a great measure indebted to the 
School of Hadrian at Canterbury, though he had in earlier life 
been a pupil of a learned Scottish monk. He was also the first 
scholar who was distinguished for composition of Latin prose and 
verse, and though his poetical performances in that language 
are not remarkable for elegance, they are by no means con- 
temptible, when we consider the barbarism of the preceding 
age, and the difficulties with which the student had to 
contend.' " 2 

1 Possibly by Mrs. Walsh's Great Barn. 
2 Mr. Veysey's Notes. 

15 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

The Domesday record of Purton runs thus : 

" The same Church (St. Mary's of Malmesbury) holds Piritone. 
It was assessed in the time of Edward the Confessor at 35 hides. 
Here are 24 ploughlands. Twenty-one hides and a half are 
in demesne, where are 2 ploughlands, and 5 servants. 20 
villagers, 12 borderers, and 13 cottagers occupy 19 ploughlands. 
The Mill pays 53. Here are 60 acres of meadow. The wood 
is 3 miles square. A burgage in Crichelade, belonging to this 
Manor pays 6 pence. It was, and is worth 16 pounds." 

Edward de Saresbury held property in Purton (temp. King 
Stephen) . His holding passed by marriage to the Bohuns, Earls 
of Hereford. As before mentioned, the name of Purton means 
" The pear-tree enclosure," and this good old Saxon name 
was borne by the once all-powerful family of de Peritone, 
Adam de Peritone owning a large portion of North Wilts. 
He was heir to Odred (falconer to King Henry 1 1.), who had 
married a sister of Sir Thomas de Sampford. 

Adam's son was Thomas de Peritone, who, as will be seen 
later in our story, made a grant of tithes in the early part of the 
thirteenth century, and he was a person of some piety, for he 
built a private chapel for his own use, promising that the church 
should lose nothing thereby. Thomas apparently left no son 
to succeed to his inheritance, but three grand-daughters, 
co-heiresses. First comes Isabel, who married William de 
Vesci, of whom we read that he was " summoned to Parliament 
in 1295, and was one of the competitors for the Crown of 
Scotland temp. Edward I." l He was also mentioned as 
" Justice in Eyre for all the Royal Forests beyond Trent, and 
one of the Justices Itinerant touching the pleas of the Forest, 
Governour of Scarborough Castle, and Lord Justice of Ireland, 
where he was Lord of Kildare." 

One pictures his coming to Purton, and his meeting with 
Isabel de Peritone, an heiress of no small standing, and then 
perchance the happy wedding in the fine old church. Alas ! the 
register does not go back so far, but it is more than likely 
that it took place here, in the bride's native village, and 
doubtless was a great day for Purton and its inhabitants. 

Isabel's husband was a son of William de Vesci, and traced 
his descent far beyond the Norman Conquest to the founder 

1 Burke' s Peerage, 1837, p. 283. 
16 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

of the House of Blois in Normandy. He had an elder brother 
John, who was summoned to Parliament as Baron de Vesci 
Dec. 24th, 1264, and when he died William succeeded to his 
honours and estates. 

Thomas de Vesci in his turn followed as the only remaining 
brother to carry on the line. 

Their father William had taken many precautions that a 
suitable wife should be found for the heir to his estates. The 
taste of the principals was not consulted, as was the custom 
in those days, and the record is strangely unlike the manners 
of to-day, when the young manage their own affairs according 
to their inclinations. 

In the Calendar of Patent Rolls, July 26th, 1253, we find 
on record that in case John the elder brother should fail to marry 
" one of the daughters of the lord of Chambre (de Camera), 
or of the vicomte of Aosta (Augustensis), as the queen and the 
said Peter shall provide," that William is to be the husband of 
one of the said ladies, but if in his turn William should fail to 
fill the position by dying too soon " the said Peter de Sabandia 
or his assign shall have the marriage of the next heir, saving 
to the King the wardship of the lands " of the younger William, 
" during the minority of his heirs." 

His father went to France with the King in 1253, for we 
find his name with others who had " protection ... for so 
long as they are in his service in those parts with the King." 

The oath which the father William took was a very serious 
and solemn affair. It was taken in the King's presence at 
Portsmouth, "on the day of St. Mary Magdalen, 37 Hen. III.," 
and it was to be enforced by " four good men selected by William, 
and four good men selected by the counsel of the Queen and 
Peter de Sabandia," and there was to be a sum of money assigned 
when the marriage should take place. 

To make assurance doubly sure, William bound himself 
" on his fealty in the King's hand," and Peter swore a similar 
oath " to procure performance thereof," and further William 
" laid himself under the royal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction " 
to fulfil his covenant " under pain of 1,000 marks," and of the 
Archbishop of Canterbury's ecclesiastical censure. Amongst 
many witnesses to this were the Earl of Warwick, John de 
Grey, etc. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Peter de Sabandia, in 1254, got the wardship of the " lands 
ana heirs of William de Vesci, together with the marriage of 
the heirs, the advowsons of the Churches, liberties and all things 
belonging to the wardship, so that he marry the heirs without 
disparagement." 

These lands seem to have been of a very large extent, 
including " demesnes, homages, rents, villeinages, woods, 
meadows, pastures and other issues," and included " the Castle 
and Manor of Alnewyk." 

In a dispute between Henry III. and Montfort, Earl of 
Leicester, in 1264, it appears William de Vesci and his elder 
brother John joined Leicester against the King, and this 
incurred the royal displeasure, for we read that "Protection 
until Michaelmas " was given to William de Vesci " for the Manor 
of Kattorp, Co. Lincoln, and the men of that Manor, which has 
been taken into the King's hands, because he is against the 
King with John de Vesci his brother in the present disturbance 
of the realm." 1 

There is the old Scots saying that " the best laid schemes of 
mice and men gang aft agley," and so it seems to have been 
with regard to William de Vesci's marriage, as neither a lady 
of Chambre nor of Aosta, but as already stated Isabel de 
Peritone, was the bride selected when the time came. 

Unhappily poor Isabel failed to provide the wished-for heir, 
not only to her own broad acres, but to those of her husband, 
including the Barony of de Vesci, which at his brother John's 
death came to him in 1289. 

At William's death, therefore, without lawful male issue, 
Gilbert de Aton was declared his heir, and after him the Barony 
passed through many vicissitudes and changes, two hundred 
years later being vested in Henry de Vesci (1503), whose 
dwelling-place is given as " our lady besides the market 
Cambridge." 3 

In an Indenture of a sale to the Rajah of Sarawak on 
March 6th, 1893, now among the Purton House deeds, we 
find that twenty-seven acres of land, including Bark Field and 
the present gate-lodge, were sold by the Earl of Shaftesbury 

1 Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1258-66. 

* His daughter Isabel married Gilbert de Aton. See Burke's Peerage. 

8 Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. 

18 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

and the Viscount de Vesci. This seems to suggest that 
though six hundred years or more had rolled by, a de Vesci 
still held a tiny share of the broad lands his family had 
obtained through the marriage with Isabel de Peritone. 

Through her great-great-grandmother, the Honourable 
Elizabeth Vesey, sister of the first Viscount de Vesci, the 
writer likes to think of a slender link with bygone days in 
Purton, now happily strengthened by her husband's possession 
of the old Bark Field. 

Another sister of Isabel married a Keynes, a name familiar 
in several neighbouring villages, and the youngest, Katherine 
de Peritone, married John Paynell, and left descendants. 

Of these Paynells and Keynes we find some curious records 
in Edward I.'s day, and later Katherine Paynell owning " a 
capital messuage, etc., at Puryton," also 64 acres of arable, 
10 of meadow, her rent 415., " works of four customers, pasture 
and pleas, etc., held of Robert de Keynes by service of rendering 
2s. yearly at Feasts of St. Andrew, and St. Peter ad Vincula. 
Philip Paynell, her son, aged 25 and more is her next heir." 

This Philip had to " seek his inheritance," and in a writ 
to prove it, which lay " as well in the King's hand, as in the 
wardship of Katherine Paynell, his mother, in the nineteenth 
Edward I.," we read as follows : " Jn de Cantebe says year of 
that the said Philip was born at Pyriton in hundred of 
Staple, on the day of the Assumption, about the ist hour, 
53 Henry III., and was baptized in the Baptistry of St. Mary's 
Church Pyriton, by Richard, * then vicar, on the morrow, at 
the morning hour (hora matutina). 

" Philip Basset, uncle of the sd. Philip's Mother, who was 
then at his manor of La Fasterne, * being asked to be godfather, 
sent his friends (familiares) Hugh de Courteney and Jn de 
Pyriton to lift him from the font, and give him the name of sd. 
Philip Basset, and Agnes, then the wife of Roger de Writel, 
held him, and was his godmother. He is certain of the time, 
for one Jn. le Frie of Pyriton, married one Emma at Hockday, 
before the sd. Philip's birth, and the witness met him leading 
his wife, with a great company, and struck one Wm. 
Champeneys, who was very abusive, heavily on the head 
with a staff, for which he was heavily amerced in the hundred 

1 Ricardius de Bristolia. * Now Vasterne Manor. 

19 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

(court) of Worth, and made pecuniary amends." (Writ made 
at Malmesbury as " proof of age " on Sunday, Feast of Saint 
Swithin, 19 Edward I.) 

One of the witnesses " Philip de Forde agrees," adding " that 
the aforesaid Vicar who baptized the said Philip was born at 
Cirencester." x 

Eleanor Keynes owned 10 marks rent in Purton and 
Chelworth in Edward III.'s reign. 

Later, one John Sothill in Henry VI I. 's day, held the 
" Manor of Pereton " from the Abbot of Malmesbury, and a sad 
description of his heir, George, runs thus, " George Sothill, 
aged 30 and more, a natural idiot from his birth," the manor 
being valued at 10. On account of his infirmity the King 
held the " natural fool and idiot's " manor, and his sisters were 
named his heirs, on his death at the early age of 38 years. 

In an Inquisition quoted in the Wilts Archceological Magazine 
we find references to a De Peritone, a Walrond, and a Keynes 
as follows : 

Richard de Peryton made a grant of a knight's fee and 
advowson in Wodbergh to Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of 
Warwick, in 1370. 

William Walrond " held in his demesne as of fee, two 
carucates of land in Peunhull, 2 from Malmesbury Abbey by rent 
of 153. yearly, and a suit of court twice a year at the Manor of 
Puryton worth 403. a year clear " in 1369. 

John de Keynes in 1376 " held in his demesne, as of fee, 
in the vill of Puryton the Manor of Keynes from the Abbot of 
Malmesbury, by what services the jurors do not know. It is 
worth 10 marks yearly clear." 

1 c. Edw. I., File 60(5) Cal. Mg., Vol. ii., No. 819. 
Pavenhill. 



20 




CHIMNEY-PIECE IX COLLEGE EARM, PURTON. 




CHIMNEY-PIECE IX COLLEGE EARM, PURTON. 



CHAPTER III 

FOREST RIGHTS COLLEGE FARM THE HYDE FAMILY 

BRITTON the antiquary tells us that " the Parish of Purton is 
very extensive, and comprises a considerable part of the Forest 
of Braden," which, he adds, " is now almost destitute of wood, 
and much of it is enclosed and cultivated. It is termed by old 
writers Brithendune or Bredon Wood. From the Roll of Peram- 
bulations of Forests, it appears that in the I2th of Henry III. 
Brayden, then called an ancient forest, was the property of 
Thomas de Sampford. In the 28th of Edward I. it belonged 
to the family of Peverell. In the 45th of Edward III. Hugh de le 
Spencer bought Peverell's Woods of Sir John Wroxhall, and 
Spencer, being attainted of treason, his possessions were forfeited 
to the Crown. Braden Forest was then given to the King's 
fourth son, Edmund de Langley, Duke of York. Among the 
Lansdowne manuscripts in the British Museum is a copy of 
a warrant to Richard, Earl of Cambridge, dated the 8th of 
Richard II., authorising him to fell timber in Braden Forest. 
This nobleman, who was the second son of the Duke of 
York, was in 1415 beheaded for a conspiracy against his cousin, 
Henry V., and Braden again reverted to the Crown. 

" In the fifth year of Charles I. the Forest of Braden was 
disafforested, when 100 acres of it were allotted to the poor of 
Cricklade, 150 acres to the free holders of the inner boundary 
of the said Forest, 25 acres to the poor of The Leigh in the Parish 
of Ashton Keynes, and 25 acres to the poor of Purton Stoke ; 
all the aforesaid parties having had right of common in the 
Forest, and having put in their claims to a compensation for 
the loss of their rights. * 

" The farmers who occupied the lands after the disafforesta- 
tion claimed exemption from poor rates on account of the grant 
of lands out of the Forest to the poor, but their claim was set 
aside, and they have paid poor rates for many years." 

Some of the grants connected with Braden Forest are 

1 See Chapter viii. 
21 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

peculiar, i.e. by gift of Henry IV. the Abbey of Cirencester 
was entitled to four does a year from Braden Forest. The 
Prior of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist at Wootton Bassett 
(and subsequently the Vicar) enjoyed the right to cut trees 
to build his house, and to hunt with bow and hound without 
hindrance from gamekeepers in Braden Forest. Some lands 
in Purton, probably part of Braden in 1472, maintained a 
chantry in Ramsbury Church. The first Earl of Clarendon, 
Edward Hyde, was not born in Purton, but his father, Henry 
Hyde, lived in what is now the College Farm, at present occupied 
by Mr. and Mrs. C. J. lies, under Worcester College, Oxford. 
On a chimney-piece in one of the rooms there is a shield of 
arms of the Earl's grandmother, one of the Sibell family, viz. 
a tiger looking backwards in a mirror. Lord Clarendon tells 
us that in his seventeenth year, " being seized with an illness at 
the Middle Temple, his friends much feared a consumption, so 
his uncle (Sir Nicholas Hyde, of Marlborough, Lord Chief 
Justice) thought fit to send him into the Country to Pirton in 
North Wiltshire, whither his Father had removed himself 
from Dinton" (where the Chancellor was born 1608), "choosing 
rather to live upon his own land, the which he had purchased 
many years before, and to rent Dinton, which was but a lease 
for lives to a tenant." While living in this house at Purton 
he relates a strange coincidence, for he tells us that " whilst 
he was reading to his Father in Camden's Annals in Latin, 
the particular passage relating to a certain John Felton who 
had fixed the Pope's Bull against the Bishop of London's 
Palace gate, a person of the neighbourhood knocked at the 
door, and told them that a post had just gone through the 
village to Charlton, the Earl of Berkshire's, to inform the Earl 
that the Duke of Buckingham was killed the day before by 
another John Felton" 

His two elder brothers dying, the Chancellor succeeded 
to the property, having apparently recovered his health in 
the salubrious air of Purton. 

He married firstly Anne, daughter of Sir John Ayliffe, of 
Grittenham, in the adjoining parish of Brinkworth. 

She died of smallpox in the first year of marriage, 2nd July, 
1632, aged 20. Mr. Hyde was elected member for Wootton 
Bassett and Shaftesbury, but chose the former. 

22 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

He then married as his second wife a daughter of Sir 
Thomas Aylesbury. The " Short Parliament " coming to an 
end, he was re-elected for Saltash, and represented that con- 
stituency in the celebrated " Long Parliament." His cautious 
disposition gradually weaned him from the popular side, and 
he became a supporter of the King, who in return for this 
knighted him, and created him Chancellor of the Exchequer. He 
travelled on the Continent with the King, acting as his adviser 
and secretary, and later on was appointed to draw up the 
famous Declaration of Breda. 

In 1660 he was raised to the Peerage as Earl of Clarendon. 
He was in favour of a policy embracing the supremacy of the 
Anglican Church, and earned by his severe policy the hatred 
of the Puritan party. He opposed the Dutch War, which was 
popular in the country, and busied himself in raising large sums 
of money for the Crown. Amongst other causes of his un- 
popularity was the idea that he favoured the King's marriage 
with Katherine of Braganza, knowing that she was unlikely to 
have children, and so to make practically certain that his 
daughter Anne, who had secretly married the King's brother, 
James, Duke of York, should some day be Queen of England. 
Anne Hyde had gone to Court at the age of 22 as maid of honour 
to a sister of the King. She at once captivated James's fancy, but 
wisely insisted on a regular marriage. She eventually became the 
mother of eight children, two of whom, Mary and Anne, were 
in turn Queens of England. When the story of the marriage 
was known, Clarendon became the object of much popular 
abuse, and he was much alarmed, for he then turned on 
Anne, laying the blame at her door. She was no doubt 
given to much extravagance, and was of a proud and arrogant 
disposition. Later on she joined the Roman Catholic Church, 
and dying in 1671, was buried in Westminster Abbey. It 
has been said that Anne was born at College Farm, but such 
was not the case, though much of her childhood was probably 
spent there. 

But darker days were in store for Clarendon. The House of 
Commons in 1667 impeached him for treason, and Charles 
warned him to expect no protection or help from him. He 
then left these shores for the South of France, where he wrote 
his noted books, The History of the Great Rebellion, and his 

23 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Autobiography. Dying there in 1674, his remains were brought 
home to Westminster Abbey, where they lie in the vault with 
others of his family at the foot of the steps leading to 
Henry VII. 's Chapel. 

Everyone who goes to London has seen Hyde Park, but 
few who enjoy its sylvan beauties realise that this princely 
gift was bestowed upon London by this very Lord Clarendon, 
in acknowledgment of which he received a gilt key and the 
right to enter the Park at any time he chose. Surely we 
Purton folk may feel (even though the best part of three centuries 
has rolled away since the gift was made) a reflected glory and 
satisfaction that a Purton man was able to offer and bestow 
upon the nation so great a boon while time shall run. The 
great parks are truly called the " lungs of London," for the 
wonderfully healthy record of that great city is in no small 
measure attributable to these open spaces, and the millions who 
enjoy Hyde Park as each year passes might at least give a 
kindly thought to the Purton Chancellor who did so much for 
them, their ancestors and descendants. 

There is no doubt that the wall which encircles College Farm 
is of an ancient date, and must have stood there long before 
the road which runs round it was made. This is obvious from 
the fact that a curve begins from where the Post Office stands, 
and the straight road continues its line just beyond where the 
wall turns, so it is evident that the road only deflected to avoid 
the wall already there". 

The postern gate which breaks the wall has a pretty arch, 
and probably dates from about 1680, but may be older. 



24 



CHAPTER IV 

REFORMATION CHANGES INTERESTING EVENTS CHURCH ALES 
ST. GEORGE'S CULT 

" AT the close of the sixteenth century x the so-called Reforma- 
tion was proceeding in a resolute, if not a relentless manner. 
The very principles of our religion were being slighted and 
impugned, the outward forms so venerated by generations in 
the past were treated with the utmost contempt, the stately 
ceremonial was regarded as slavish idolatry, and even the 
surplice was flung aside as superstitious. A spirit of destruction 
passed over the land, the churches were desecrated, and the 
materials of the most exquisite shrines were removed, and sold 
for what they would fetch." 

The following is an extract from a document of the time of 
Edward VI., dealing with the spoliation of Purton Church : 

" Interrogatories to be mynystered on the part of Sir 
Edmund Bryddges Knight. 

" First, whether Browne and Jaakes, servantes unto Benet 
Joy, dyd stele and convey awey the Image of Seynt George 
ouzt of Puryton Church, and caryed the same to the Mancion 
house of Joys or no. 

" Item, whether one of the Church wardens commanded 
them soo to doo, or by whose commande they so did, and who 
byd them put hit into the wole house of Joys', and for what 
intent the same was caryd away more than the other images. 

" Item whether Browne and Jakes did confesse the takying 
away the said image, and whether they toke the same ageyn 
oultzt of the woll house and caryd hyt to the Church ageyn, 
or who caryd the same image to the Church. 

" Item, whoo commanded them to bring hit to Church and 
what was the cause, or did they bring hyt of their owne free 
will. 

" Item. Whether the seid Sir Edmund Bryges did convey 
away his trees owzt of Joys' ferme grounde with as much spede 

1 Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xxxiii., p. 145, etc. 
25 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

as he could gett caryage, or whether he sufferyd them to lye 
of purpose to destroy Joys' grasse. 

" Item. Whether the bearward to Sir Edmund Bryges be 
a natural foole, or folishe or noo." 

Certain acres in Purton were set apart for the maintenance 
of church lights, and at the Buthaye (which once stood behind 
the cottage on Mrs. Walsh's property, now occupied by Mr. 
Davis the verger) was brewed " Seynt George's ale," the proceeds 
of the sale of which were dedicated to the use of St. George and 
his priest. The old cottage, which was pulled down in 1901, 
showed an absence of windows in front upstairs, the inside was 
more interesting. In the principal living room beside the 
hearth was a four-foot-square alcove with an opening into a 
dark chamber above. In this room there was no window 
or any approach except through this alcove. The inference 
we draw is that it was as it remained since Benedict Joy 
answered the above interrogatories. 

On the subject of the disputes between Lord Chandos and 
the Pulleys, and also of the various schemes employed to raise 
funds necessary for the Church's expenses, the writer gratefully 
acknowledges the following most interesting notes written for 
this volume by Mrs. Story-Maskelyne : 

Purton in the days of Queen Elizabeth was in the throes 
of supremely interesting events, which were of the greatest 
importance to its inhabitants, events giving rise to questions 
relating to the religion of the land and to the common rights of 
the people. In both questions the Brydges family were 
concerned and played a prominent part. 

Sir J. Brydges had been Groom of the Bedchamber to 
King Henry VIII. , and was created Baron Chandos by Queen 
Mary for his share in suppressing Wyatt's rebellion. He had 
acquired the monastic lands at Purton and elsewhere, too, 
after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. 

These monastic suppressions were the cause of much bitter 
feeling, which accompanied the profound religious changes all 
over the country during the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., 
Mary and Elizabeth, one result being that the lease of the 
Manor and Rectory of Purton, given in 1515 by the Abbot of 
Malmesbury, in anticipation of coming troubles, to R. Pulley, 

26 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

his wife, and four young children in survivorship, was after 
the Dissolution held by Lord Chandos, although, as the rent 
was reserved, it was many years before he came into full 
possession. The Manor rented at g i6s. od., the Rectory at 
12, and the Tithes 405. were paid yearly at the Feasts of 
Lady Day and Michaelmas, from which we may presume that 
the grand old tithe barn was by that time no longer filled, as of 
old, with the tithe in kind, which used to cover its spacious floors 
in the days of the Abbot of Malmesbury, 405. being paid instead. 

In the days when the families of R. Pulley and J. Brydges 
both considered themselves lawfully entitled to possession 
of the former Abbey lands it was inevitable that disputes 
should arise. 

In Edward VI. 's time a curious case in point arose when 
the tenure of Isabel, daughter of R. Pulley, and now wife of 
Bennet Joy, after peaceable enjoyment of the Manor and Rectory 
for many years, was called in question and her house forcibly 
entered by the servants of Sir E. Brydges. For this and other 
serious indictments she brought an action against him, accusing 
him of molestation and persecution of many kinds, amongst 
others the following : " They did breke and enter into the duff 
house and killed all the douves, and distroyed the duff house." 
They destroyed the well with refuse, and prevented the Pulleys 
from collecting " the 20 loodes of wood they were entitled to 
' get in Braden.' " It was also said that " they entered the 
Court with a hand gun and dyd shote and kyll the hennes and 
capons, and dayly shoteth his doves and pultry ... so 
that his servants went in terror of their lives." The Brydges 
family seem to have kept a bear, for one of the accusations 
brought against him was that " his beareward and his servants 
did course a Beare upon the ground called ' Wyndmill Hill ' * 
at the time when the cows were in calf thus causing much loss." 
Last, but not least, was the accusation of the forcible entry 
into the " house of Joys." 

. The event which led to this forcible entry into Joys' 
house was preceded by an order from the King for removing 
" all images and Idolls from the Church of Puryton," when 
G. Messenger, one of the Wardens of the Parish Church, 

1 Now part of the park at Purton House. 
27 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

who had been appointed by the King's Visitor, " repeired to 
the Church (on the 2Qth Jan., 1547-48) with diverse of his 
neighbours and there pulled down all Images and Idolls within 
the said Church, according to the Commandment . . . and 
as it became true subjects to doe, which after they soe did, they 
did shutt and put all the same images in a corner of the Church, 
appointing them to be sold, and the money thereof coming 
to be put into the Poor's men's box, to such uses as the Visitor 
appointed, then the Churchwarden and others departed." 
Whereupon Isabel was overheard by her servants, saying that 
"much lyking the image (of St. George) wished she had the 
same at home in her house," and " that it was a pity to deface 
the same." Her servants then " stole the Image from the 
Church and carried it to the Wool house belonging to the 
Mansion." Next came the servants of Sir E. Brydges, " who 
broke upon the door with a pyked staff in search of the stolen 
Image which they took forth and carried to the Church ageyn." 

Transactions such as the above must have been deeply 
resented by parishioners still belonging to the older faith, as 
were the family of R. Pulley, to which belonged both Isabel 
and her niece Jane, wife of George Maskelyne, who, when an 
old woman after a widowhood of over sixteen years, made her 
last will. Her memory would carry her back over three-fourths 
of a century of profound changes. She was almost to a year 
the contemporary of her sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth. 
Reared in the older faith, she had seen the beautiful Church of 
Purton in the full glory of the ancient rite, and the vain longing 
for one at least of its accessories found a pitiful expression in 
a clause thus : 

"To the Bells of Pyrton XX's and the increase of 403. 
towards the yearly maintenance of one to play uppon the 
organs in the parish Church of Pyrton aforesaid, whensoever 
the parishioners there shall and will provide and hire one to 
play uppon the same." 1 She further desired in her will to be 
buried near her grandfather Pulley, the conventual lessee of 
the church lands of Malmesbury Abbey, in the chancel of the 
Church. Those days were indeed a contrast to what Isabel 
Joy must have remembered, when as a little child the old 
Abbot of Malmesbury and the monks accompanying him 

1 A. S.-M. 
28 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

came to the house of her father in Purton to receive their dues 
at the court holden on the Manor, when, as we find recorded 
by one of the former monks of Malmesbury, he saw " Isabel 
then a young gyrle of ii or iii years of age, playing up and down 
in her father's house," whom the then Abbot did much county- 
nance and did play withal " and " would jest withal and call yt 
wife." (Star-Chamber Proceedings, W. & M., vol. xxxiii., p. 145 
et seq.) 

With the passing of those days passed also the remembrance 
of very much else, such as the uses for which the church lands 
had originally been given, and it came to be supposed that 
" certain lands which had been given to superstitious uses, and 
so employed in the reign of King Henrie 8th, had been withheld 
and consealed from her Highness Queen Elizabeth." To clear 
up these points a commission, consisting of Sir W. Brydges 
and others, was appointed in 1592 (the thirty-fourth year 
of Queen Elizabeth's reign). Amongst the witnesses called, 
R. Plover, an old man aged 86, said that he " had known all 
the parcels of land in question all his life ; and that these church 
lands were at one time held by one Th. Shurmer who did main- 
tain the lights such as the Trinity light and other tapers in the 
Church on holy days and Festmatt days . . . and that he 
used to light and put them out." Also that " the Churchwardens 
had the letting of the church lands in respect of their office " ; 
that " the Buthies belonged to the maintenance of the Image 
of St. George and of his Priest, who did long time agone use to 
praie for the Brethren and Sisters of St. George. The two 
Ale Stewards were yearly chosen by the parishioners and 
were called St. George's Ale Stewards, and they did brew an 
ale called St. George's Ale . . . and they had the use of 
the ground called the Butheys and did make therin St. George's 
Buttes . . . then as now. The increase of their ale and rent 
of the Butheys did maintain St. George and his Priest . . . 
till the Image and his Priest were abolished and the lights taken 
out of the Church," after which " the Churchwardens did 
enter and take to all the said lands, and employed the same 
to the use of the Parish Church of Pirton." The church lands 
which are here alluded to, and which had belonged to the Church 
" tyme whereof no memory of man runneth belonging," were 
in 1577 and 1582 let by the Churchwardens to George Maskelyne 

29 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

and his heir, his son Edmund being in possession of the leases 
at the time of the " Depositions." They were then said to 
be: 

i acre lying in Woodward Crofte 

one acre in the Hourne l 

one \ acre lyeth in Hilly Meade 

one \ acre lieth in Barfield 

one | acre lieth at the Downe end. 

one acre and half at Clardon 

half an acre lieth at Shilfinche 

and one parcel or parocke lyeth in Restrop * 

and also one parcel of land called the Buthies. 
It may be of interest to append the list of lands leased 
to George Maskelyne in 1577 and 1582, as throwing light on 
where these church lands were. 

Leased to George Maskelyne his son and daughter for life, 
4 acres arable land and meadow lying dispersed in the Fields 
and Meadows of Purton called the church lands belonging^to 
the use of the Parish Church of Pirton. 

1577. 20 Elizabeth. 1582. 24 Elizabeth. 

acres. acres. 

i. 2. o. lieth on the South = i| in Clardon. 
end of Clardon shooting on 
Holbrook Way. 

o. 2. o. at the South end = \ at the Downe End. 
of the Downe. 

o. 2. o. in Barfield shooting = \ in Barfield. 
upon Smith Mead. 

0. 2. o. upon Bremhill = J in Hilly Land, 
shooting East and West. 

1. o. o. upon Shilfinch f| in Shilfmch. 
shooting upon HolliewelTs |j above Hollie well. 
Hamme. 

o. 2. o. in the Pry in a = i in Woodwards Croft 
parcel of mead called Dry- (arable). \ in the 

acres. Hurne (mead), (called 

the Lampland by 
R. Plover). 

1 Called by R. Plover " The Lampacre." 
* Spoken of elsewhere as "Hollie Well." 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Gostie Mead is called Lampacre in old deeds, and paid 
sixteen pence for a light in Purton Church. Goss is the Wiltshire 
name for Restharrow. Gostie Mead was part of Ware's " Old 
Lands " in Bentham, sold to Edmund Maskelyne. 

Most of these church lands can still be made out on the 
old Parish Map of Purton, dated 1744. 

It may be well here to give some explanation of the Church 
Lights and Church Ales, which are constantly referred to in 
Churchwardens' Accounts in pre-Reformation days. 

From the accounts of St. Edmund's at Sarum, during the 
yeais 1443 to 1702, we get the names by which many such 
Church Lights were known, e.g. The Trinity Light, The Wife's 
Light, Maiden's Light, Servant's Light, Rood Lights, and 
many Saints' Lights. The Rood Light was supported by the 
devotion of the people ; others were supported by collections 
made in Church or by Guilds and Brotherhoods. " The hire 
of XXth Shepe which J. Ludlow did give to the maynteyning 
of St. Sebastians Light " brought in twelve shillings. 

" The stewards of each light received a certain sum as 
Stock ' for maintaining their light and promoting the success 
of their festival, and, after deducting the expenses incurred 
from what they had collected and retaining ' Stock ' for next 
year, the balance or ' Increase ' * was brought to be hallowed 
and given to the Churchwardens for Church Works." 

Candles for the year made from wax purchased for the 
purpose were brought out to be hallowed at Candlemas 
(Feb. ist). 

Many ancient records exist of fresh fire drawn from flint 
used to make Holy Fire on Easter Eve, all lights being 
first quenched. 

The Herse Lights spoken of as in use in Purton Church were 
probably those " burnt beside dead bodies in Church." 

Church Ales (Feasts) are repeatedly noticed in the 
Sarum Churchwardens' accounts from long before to long 
after the Reformation. 

It was the Church Ales which formerly provided the money 
to maintain St. George and his Priest at Purton, till, as the old 

1 We here get an explanation and meaning of the term " Increase " 
used by an old witness when speaking of the Ale which maintained the 
Image of St. George and his Priest. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

witness said, " they were abolished and taken out of the Church." 
We can easily imagine how deeply the memory of this event 
(the story of which is told on page 29) must have sunk 
into the minds of the old men, and how vividly it was recalled 
when they gave their evidence fifty years after it occurred. 
But, although so many changes had meanwhile taken place, 
the custom of brewing Church Ales was continued, and were 
still brewed, though now forjyjifferent purpose, in the Butheys. 
In pre-Reformation days the parishioners had no choice as 
to attending these Church Ale feasts and contributing to the 
money which they provided for the Church. This we see 
from the following extract taken from an old Indenture 
(see Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. ii., p. 193) : 

" The Inhabitants of ... shall brew foure ales at their 
own costs and charges . . . and every inhabitant shall be 
at the said ales ; every husband and his wife shall pay 2d and 
every cottyer id. and all come to the said ales. . . . The 
profits and vantages coming of the said ales, (shall be retained). 
Eight ales shall be brewed betwixt the Feast of St. Andrew 
and the Feast of St. John Baptist if the inhabitant be 
away at one ale to pay at ye toder for both or els to send 
his money." 

The money thus collected was used to repair the churches, 
to buy books for the service " cuppes for the celebration of the 
Sacrament, Surplices for Sir John " (i.e. the Clergyman), " etc., 
etc." 

In the days of Aubrey's 1 grandfather, there being no rate 
for the poor at Kington St. Michael, Wilts, " the Church Ale 
at Whitsuntide did their business." In the Church of Thorpe le 
Soken in Essex is an ancient wooden screen bearing this 
inscription : 

" This cost is the Bachelors made by Ales. Jesus be their 
mede." 

The "Word Ale" ' is still held in secret at Midgehall at 
Michaelmas to celebrate the exemption of the land from tithe, 
the name being derived from the Anglo-Saxon Wordland. 
A Scot Ale got its name from the fee or Scot paid by the people. 

1 Aubrey, the Wiltshire historian, seventeenth century. 
2 See Chapter xvii. 

32 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

A Clerk's Ale was held to enable the Clerk to collect his dues 
more readily. 

Feasts connected with these ales led in time to riotous 
conduct and they had to be suppressed by law, although in 
some places they lingered on into the last century, the Clerk's 
Ale being held at Chiseldon as late as 1845, as related in the 
Wilts Arch. Magazine, vol. ii., pp. 190 and 399. The word 
" Butt " means a boundary between two properties, as it does 
in the field called the Butts at Purton and in another in 
Lydiard Millicent. It is more likely, however, that the place 
called the Butthey, which is not at a boundary, was so named 
because it was the enclosure or " haie " for " St. George's Butts," 
as described by the old witness, R. Plover, in 1597. 



33 



CHAPTER V 

THE MASKELYNE FAMILY 

IN writing of this family one has to go back a very long 
way in the history of Purton, as no less than eighteen 
Maskelynes in succession have been the respected owners of 
broad acres in Purton and Lydiard parishes. 

The first was Robert, a freeholder in Lydiard Millicent in 
1435, nearly five hundred years ago. 

His great-grandson, William of Purton and Lydiard, " gave 
rent to Maintain a Light before our Lady" at Lydiard Tregoze. 
Curious bequests were made in the old wills of bygone days, 
when values were so immensely greater than at the present 
time. For instance, a single ewe was often bequeathed. 

As far as we know, West Marsh was the first Purton home of 
the family, and there George and Jane Maskelyne lived in the 
days of Queen Elizabeth. The touching story of Jane is told in 
the chapter about the Church, where allusions are made to her 
grandfather Richard Pulley, and to her aunt Isabel Joy (nee 
Pulley), who lived at that time at the Manor House, close to 
the Church and Great Tithe Barn. The endless quarrels arising 
from the length of the conventual leases given to the Pulley 
family, which overlapped Lord Chandos' purchase of the Manor, 
are also described in Chapter iv. After the dissolution of the 
Abbey, the church lands x originally given by pious benefactors 
for the maintenance of church light were let by the Church- 
wardens to George Maskelyne of West Marsh, for the benefit 
of the Church. 

After the death of George and Jane Maskelyne, their son 
Edmund, who was a member of the Inner Temple and a Feodary 
of the Duchy of Lancaster, added largely to the land belonging 
to the family He was lord of the Manors of Cricklade and 
Chelworth and of Slaughter (Co. Gloucester), and M.P. for 
Cricklade in 1625. As a lawyer he was greatly interested in 

1 See Chapter iv. for the list of these fields. 
34 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

the very early enclosure of Purton Common, agreed upon by 
Lord Chandos and his Purton neighbours in 1596-97. 

At Basset Down is preserved an Account Book dated 1638, 
kept by Edmund's son, Neville Maskelyne, which gives very 
useful information about the land and the stinting of beasts on 
the commons. l 

Neville was also a Member of Parliament for Cricklade, and 
it was he who charged the Pry Pasture with 5 a year for the 
poor of Purton, and los. to the Minister to preach a sermon 
on Good Friday. He was also one of the original Trustees 
of the Purton Play Close, conveyed to them in 1641. 

His grandson, Neville, who succeeded him in 1679, served in 
a troop of Militia Horse at the time of Monmouth's rebellion, 
his Commission from Lord Pembroke being addressed " to my 
loving friend Neville Maskaline Esqr. in 1683." 

This Neville and his wife Ann, daughter of the Vicar of 
Purton, Rev. W. Bathe, brought up a family of ten children 
at West Marsh, both dying young in 1706 and 1711 respectively. 

Little is known of the childhood of these children, but from 
a letter written very long afterwards by Lady Clive, preserved 
at Basset Down, we learn that two of them, her aunts Jane 
and Sarah, when old women had great pleasure in recalling 
the following story : " Five sons and five daughters lived to 
grow up and sit at their parents' table. They were all dressed 
alike, one year in yellow, another in blue, etc., and one year, as 
they walked in procession up the steps of Purton Church, an 
old woman sitting on the wall of the churchyard, cried out in 
a treble voice, ' There go Squire Maskelyne 's Yellowhammers.' ' 
Soon after the death of their parents, West Marsh was sold 
to pay the money settled on the younger children, and the 
eldest son, Neville, rebuilt and settled at the Down, the younger 
children having to seek their fortunes in London or India. 

The third son, Edmund, a clerk in the East India Company 
at Whitehall, brought up three sons and one daughter Margaret, 
afterwards Lady Clive. 

The eldest son, William, eventually inherited the Ponds 
Farm, Purton Stoke, from his Bathe great-uncle. 

Captain Edmund, the second son, bought Basset Down on 

1 See Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xl., p. 122. 
35 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

leaving India. The third son, the Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, D.D., 
born 1732, became Astronomer Royal at Greenwich, and having 
outlived his two brothers, finally inherited the Purton properties 
and Basset Down. He was buried in Purton Churchyard, near 
his forefathers. To him we owe the first conception of 
and publication of the Nautical Almanac, the first volume of 
which appeared in 1767. 

The great French Astronomer Delambre said of him : 

" He has left the most complete set of observations with 
which the world was ever presented, corrected in the most 
careful manner, which has served during thirty years as the 
basis of all astronomical observations ; in short, it may be said 
. . . that, if by any great revolution the works of all other 
astronomers were lost, and this collection preserved, it would 
contain sufficient materials to raise again nearly entire the 
edifice of modern astronomy." 

He had one daughter, Margaret, who married in 1819 
Anthony Storey, son of the Rev. William Storey, by Bridget 
Prower, sister and aunt of two successive Vicars of Purton 
(1771-1869), a family well known in Purton for a great many 
years. 

Mrs. Maskelyne was a skilful artist, and many beautiful 
and interesting sketches from her pencil are now at Basset 
Down House. Amongst them is an exquisitely drawn map of 
Purton district, 1 of a very large size and elaborate detail. 

The view of old Purton House (facing p. 107) is a 
reproduction from her work in 1802-10. 

Her son, Mr. Mervyn Nevil Storey Maskelyne, was M.P. for 
Cricklade, and a Liberal Unionist in politics. He married 
n 1858 Thereza, daughter of J. Dillwyn Llewelyn, of Penllergare, 
who has collected much information about Purton, and contri- 
buted several articles to the Wilts Archcsological Magazine. 

He left three daughters : 

i. Margaret Emma, of Purton, who devotes her life and 
energies to social work amongst her poor neighbours, and 
is specially interested in Poor Law reform. She is one of 
the members for Lydiard Millicent of the Cricklade and 
Wootton Bassett District Council. 

1 Copied from an older map of the date 1744. 
36 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

2. Mary Lucy, married the late Right Honourable Hugh 
Oakeley Arnold-Forster, M.P. for West Belfast and Croydon, 
Secretary for the Admiralty and Secretary of State for War. 
She has four sons, William, Mervyn, John and Christopher, 
who all served their country in her hour of need. 

Mrs. Arnold-Forster leads a busy life. She entirely 
organised the arrangements for the Belgian Refugee colonies 
in the district, and is much interested in all schemes for social 
work. 

3. Thereza Charlotte, married the late Sir Arthur Riicker, 
F.R.S., Principal of the University of London, and has one 
son, Nevil, who fought in France during the War. 



37 



CHAPTER VI 

PURTON CHURCH 

THE patron saint of our beautiful Church is St. Mary, but 
curiously enough in the time of Edward III. St. Nicholas 
is the name given. 1 Aubrey ; writing in 1569, gives the following 
interesting description of it : 

" This is a very faire Church, sometime doubtless a place 
of great devotion, as appeares by those many niches in the 
walles within and without to sett images in, etc. 

" At the East end of the Chancel, without are two Angells, 
holding some kind of vegitative between them, which I suppose 
to be either a laurel or olive branch. All the windowes in the 
Chancell are seminated all over with estoiles or starres of six 
points. 

" On the North side of the Altar, in the wall, is an old marble 
tomb, but the inscription with coates of Arms being in brasse, 
on purpose to perpetuate the memories of the dead, gave 
occasion to sacriligious hands to teare them away. In this 
Church have been very fine paynted glasse, but now so broken 
and mangled, that there is little to be recovered. In a crosse 
aile, on the South side, in the third column of the East windowe 
is this coate (Keynes No. 225). In the south windowe in the 
same aile, are several Bishops with their mitres and crosiers. 
This Coate (No. 226, Paynell) is in the last windowe on the south 
side of the Church, and this inscription has been shuffled, 
I know not how, by the glazier, into the first column of the same 
windowe, ' Johannes Passus.' (This may have referred to some 
stained glass representation of the execution of St. John.) 

"In this parish was Chancellor Hyde's habitation when a 
private gentleman, before the civill warres." * 

But we have already told something of Chancellor Hyde, 
and must now continue with our account of the Church. 

1 In a fine of Edward III., 1336. 
z See Chapter iii. 

38 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Mr. Ponting, the Diocesan Architect, some years ago compiled a 
delightful paper 1 describing the Church in detail, and the writer 
has adapted these notes in the following description. 

Our Church is very symmetrical in form, having a nave 
with north and south aisles, a central tower below the spire, 
with north and south transepts, chancel with north sacristy 
(now the vestry) and South Chapel, and the later western tower 
where the bells hang. There was formerly a north door in the 
central aisle, now built up ; it is remarkable for the high level 
at which it is placed, the sill being three feet above the floor 
and other doorways, and the jambs outside show that this was 
its original position, though the lie of the ground does not explain 
the reason for it. 

Twelfth Century. 

The earliest feature is the Transitional Norman impost of the 
east respond of the south nave arcade, which suggests that there 
may have been a central tower of that date, though this, like 
that on the north side, was removed and re-instated when the 
present tower was built. 

Early Thirteenth Century. 

The nave appears to have been rebuilt at this period, only 
the cylindrical piers of the two arcades with caps and bases 
remain, and the bases are missing on the eastern responds 
against the central tower. Although the north and south piers 
are coeval, the capitals of the north are richly carved with foliage 
characteristic of the style, while those on the south are only 
moulded. 

A little later the present chancel was erected. All the walls 
(except the east wall, which was rebuilt in 1872) are of this date, 
though there have been many insertions. An original lancet 
window remains in the north wall near the central tower, but 
it is built up and disused since the fifteenth century when the 
sacristy was added outside it. The doorway which cuts into 
the window is also built up. Portions of a similar window 
farther eastward can be seen on the south side of the chancel. 
In the south wall of the sacrarium the original Early English 
piscina exists, large and with two shelves. 

1 See Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xxiii., p. 229. 
39 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Fourteenth Century. 

The chapel on south side of the chancel appears now to have 
been added. The three-light east window here is a beautiful 
specimen of " flowing Decorated." The window and doorway, 
now closed, in the south wall, are evidently later insertions, 
coeval with the aisles. A " Decorated " piscina with shelf in 
south wall shows this to have been a chantry. The central 
tower and spire, north and south transepts, were probably 
built about the end of the reign of Edward III. The tower 
is a singular combination of Decorated and Perpendicular styles, 
the alternate sunk chamfer and hollow of the piers and the 
groining of the lower stage being earlier in feeling than the 
upper stage. The spire, as its bold roll indicates, was evidently 
a continuation of the lower and earlier work. The squinches 
of the spire have square pinnacles with the parapet. The upper 
stage of the tower is open to the spire, and has two corbels 
low down on the east and west faces inside, and larger ones 
higher up on north and south sides, which probably supported 
bells before the western tower was added. A door opens in the 
south transept, and lower on the north and east are built-up 
windows ; these would be blocked by adjacent roofs, which 
retain their original pitch. There are two-light windows 
higher up on four sides. A turret stair from north transept 
gives approach to this stage, and to a second floor above the 
higher bell corbels. A bit of Norman roll-moulding is seen on 
the third step from the floor, which suggests that this work 
displaced some former work of that period. 

Transepts. 

A piscina, of which the shelf is missing, shows in the south 
transept that an altar once stood here ; an archway having led 
through the east wall to the chapel confirms this, for the chamfer 
of the south jamb is stopped at four feet from the floor (which 
would be about the level of the mensa, including the step) ; 
over the position of the altar is a squint of a triple quatrefoil, 
with the splay of the jamb on the east side inclined slightly 
to the north, in the direction of the altar of the chapel. 

North Transept. 
Two corbel heads indicate an altar here on the inside faces 

40 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

of the jambs of the later and peculiarly flat archway in the east 
wall opening into the sacristry. A beautiful little Transitional 
window peeps out clear of the north aisle. 

Fifteenth Century. 

Considerable alterations soon after, if not actually in 
connection, followed. The upper parts of the walls and arches 
of the nave arcades were taken down, the Early English piers 
and responds raised about three feet, but the original capitals 
retained, and new arches with the mouldings of the time erected 
on them. The new stones were clumsily fitted into the old, 
and the former height of the old piers is easy to see. The 
mouldings of the capitals appear to have been partly altered 
to meet the newer style. 

At this time the north and south aisles were re-built and 
the south porch erected, and here many Decorated features 
linger, i.e., the tracery of the west window of the north aisle, 
the doorway and niche in the south porch, and the rich jamb 
and arch-mouldings of all the windows, showing the Decorated 
feeling in a marked degree. The south aisle has its original 
roof of span form and high pitch. 

South Porch. 

This is large and rich in detail. A plain outer doorway 
with two orders of chamfers with label over. A moulded stone 
arch crosses the porch from east to west, dividing it into two 
bays, and supporting the Priest's Room. Outside the east wall 
a buttress receives the thrust of the arch, the stair turret 
strengthens the west side, and there are diagonal buttresses 
south-west and south-east. These and the angle buttresses 
of the later western tower are the only ones in any part of 
the Church, which is remarkable. 

Niches (thirteen in all). 

There is a beautiful niche in the east wall of the south porch 
constructed to hold a single figure, sides panelled the full 
height, as also the soffit and part of the upper back. It has 
a square head, and has been richly traceried, but much is 
destroyed. Every part shows original colouring in red, yellow 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

and blue, as do the spandrels of the arch spanning the porch. 
The following niches are outside : 

Three on west face of tower . . Perpendicular. 
One on north face of tower . . ,, 

One on south face of tower . . 

One in east gable of south chapel Transitional Decorated 

to Perpendicular. 
One in south gable of south transept Early English 

(replaced here). 

Inside : 

One in east wall of porch (see above) Transitional. 
One in centre of north aisle 

Two in east wall of chancel . . Perpendicular. 

One on sill of east window of chancel ,, 

One cut in east respond of south 

arcade of nave . . . . . . ,, 

Corbels (six). 

One in east wall of south transept. 

One in east wall of north transept. 

Two in jambs of archway in east wall of transept. 

Two in west wall of north aisle. 

Priest's Room. 

A turret stair on the north-west angle of the south 
porch leads to the priest's room. The original doorway remains 
with ogee head, and fireplace with carved patera in the mould- 
ings of the jambs. The roof is modern, and the pitch is lowered 
from its old position. The chimney is coeval with the staircase, 
the coping similarly embattled. Observe the curious sink 
stone just outside the door, the spout carried through the wall 
of the turret to the outside, showing that this room was 
inhabited. The larger window is of recent date. 

Western Tower. 

This appears to have been erected at about the middle of 
the fifteenth century, and to have been carried out as a 
distinct work. Note the fact that oyster shells are employed 
in forming the joints ; this is not the case in any other part of 

42 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

the Church. This does not occur in any Wiltshire Churches 
of earlier date than the middle of the fourteenth century. 
(The earliest use of these shells with which Mr. Ponting is 
acquainted is in the Transitional Church of Edington Monastery, 
dedicated in 1361.) 

The Tower is a beautiful specimen of the best period of 
Perpendicular. It is in four stages, with angle buttresses 
carried the full height, and pinnacles standing square on them. 
The pinnacles are richly crocketed and pierced, and a pierced 
parapet of quatrefoils is carried round between them. All 
the niches have crocketed canopies, and the four lower ones 
have the base for the figure raised on a low shaft, whilst the 
upper one is supported by a carved angel-corbel. 

The Chancel. 

About the time of the building of the western tower the 
windows in the chancel, two on north, one on south, and the 
east window appear to have been inserted. The niches here 
are identical with that over the west window outside the 
western tower. A third niche rises from the centre of the 
window-sill, covered with the ancient colouring, but this niche 
is incomplete. 

The chancel has sedilia with flat arch, under and coeval 
with the south window of the sacrarium, and there are remains 
of a late altar tomb on the north. 

Outside the east window there is a sculptured panel, 
undoubtedly of the Annunciation, 15^ inches by 13 inches ; 
a flat cusped canopy, much mutilated, projects over the figures. 
This panel, coeval with the window above (fifteenth century), 
possibly commemorates a rededication of the Church, as 
described by Aubrey earlier in this chapter. 

Glass. 

There are fragments of fifteenth-century glass in the windows 
in the north and south transepts, and in two windows of the 
north aisle, the latter having figures of bishops. 

Ancient Wall Paintings. 

A fresco over the doorway in the south wall of the south 
chapel is the most remarkable, apparently the raising of 

43 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

J aims' daughter, whose figure is well drawn, and fairly well 
preserved, lying on the ground with her feet towards the east, 
her hands at her sides, clothed in a long garment, head and neck 
exposed with flowing hair. Another figure shows our Lord, 
with a nun bus, with one hand outstretched and seven 
attendants standing by. The other wall paintings are very 
indistinct. 

Over the doorway in the south aisle a panel containing 
some inscription may be traced, enclosed by a border. A male 
figure guards each side ; the one on the west side holds a rod. 

With the sun brightly shining, and with the eye of faith, 
one can sometimes see more in these old frescoes than is 
apparent to a cautious critic, and he would be a bold man who 
would try to explain away what undoubtedly has been the 
happy experience of some devoted observers of these ancient 
colour studies. 

One cannot learn a building of this kind without many years' 
of patient love and observation, but the knowledge will come 
to those who look for it, with joy and much reward for all the 
time thus spent. 

If you came to Purton and asked one of the inhabitants 
why there is a tower as well as a spire on the Church, nine 
people out of ten would tell you that it was because two sisters 
built the Church and could not agree, so decided to have both. 
This appears to be the usual explanation, as the following lines 
on Ormskirk Church will show. It seems that " two 
daughters of Orme, a famous pirate, built a Church to keep 
their memory green, but disagreed on the design, so they at 
length decided to have a tower ana also a steeple at Ormskirk, 
Lancashire." 

" ' Sister,' said one, ' it 's my desire, 

The Church should have a tapering spire, 

To point to realms where sin's forgiven, 

And lead men's thoughts from Earth to Heaven.' 

" The other said, ' I like a tower, 

It speaks of strength, of might, of power, 

An emblem of the Church's strength 

To overcome the World at length, 

To show, that 'gainst the Church, though frail, 

The gates of Hell shall not prevail.' " 

44 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

These particulars of our beautiful peal of bells are 
interesting : 

No. i, the treble bell, is engraved " Jno Grymes and 
Wm Packer Churchwardens," and its diameter is thirty-seven 
inches. 

No. 2 is engraved "Anno Domini 1628," and measures 
41 1 inches across. 

No. 3, the oldest bell of all, has this inscription, " This 
bell was made in The yeare of The Lord 1598," and is 44 inches 
across. Mr. Doble, the bell-hanger from Taunton, told the 
writer that a bell with so early a date should be specially 
noted, as previous to this no bells bear anything but the trade 
mark of the maker upon them. 

No. 4. This bell was very badly cracked, and could not be 
rung, so in 1916 it was taken down and re-cast, of which we shall 
speak later. The old inscription and decoration has been 
exactly reproduced on the new cast. The words were as 
follows : " Edward Deane, Humprey Stanley, Churchwardens. 
A.R. 1750," and the diameter was 45| inches. The bell was 
found to be rather thin, so to ensure no crack this time some 
more metal was added, and the tone is certainly very fine. 
It now bears in addition the following inscription : 

" Recast M.C.M.XVI. 

A. M. D. G. 

et in piam memoriam 

Mervyn Stronge Richardson 

ist Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers 

killed in action at Fricourt France, March igth 1916. 

aged 21 years. 
Dulce et decorum est, pro 

patria mori. 

Arthur Richardson. Captain. 
Frank Kempster. Churchwardens. 
John Veysey, Vicar." 

No. 5 is the tenor bell, whose well-known tones are rung 
alone for the last five minutes before service, and it is also rung 
as the Passing Bell, when a parishioner has been called away 
from this world to the next. Its diameter measures 50 inches. 

45 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

The small call bell, which rings as service is about to begin, 
is engraved : 

" Come away, make no delay," 

and is dated 1760 ; the diameter is only 13^ inches. 

With five bells it is possible to ring twenty-four different 
changes, with a larger number thousands of changes can be 
rung. There is much to be learnt in the art of bell ringing, 
and a certain amount of risk for beginners, but it is well worthy 
of trouble to become an expert, and a high honour to be able to 
join in calling the parishioners in this way to the House of God. 
In some parishes in bygone days on Sunday mornings men were 
stationed on various stiles in the parish (when a Church was 
without bells), who called out at intervals : " Come to Church, 
Mr. Black ; come to Church, Mr. Jones." 

To Messrs. Taylor, of Loughborough, was given the re-casting 
of No. 4 bell. Some of the money had already been collected 
in the parish ; but on examination it was found that a new floor 
was required, and an entirely fresh arrangement for ringing, 
and a good deal of strengthening to make all safe and secure. 
Captain Richardson, who had just experienced the loss of his 
youngest son in France, offered to do the bell casting at his 
own expense in his son's memory, and gave 100, the Hon. 
Mrs. Hewitt, Captain Walter Stronge, Miss Stronge, Mrs. Walsh 
and Miss Story-Maskelyne also subscribing with this object. 
The Ecclesiastical Commissioners added 10, and so the work 
was at once put in hand, and the result is very satisfactory. 

Captain M. S. Richardson had fought in France since 
September, 1914, and had been once severely bruised by a 
shell, and once also wounded in 1915. A shell burst on the 
wire which he was inspecting in front of the firing-line, killing 
him and a lance-corporal who was with him. He was buried 
a few hours later 100 yards behind the front line. He had 
been recommended for the Military Cross, and was mentioned 
in Despatches. 

Three years previously a fund was inaugurated to purchase 
a new organ for the Church, and the Carnegie Trust, at Captain 
Richardson's request, kindly promised the sum of 250 when 
a similar amount had been collected. Happily the money was 
forthcoming, so the order has been placed with Messrs. Nicholson, 

46 




PURTOX, WILTS. 

(Old print. This puul is now drained aivay. 




ST. MARY'S CHURCH, PURTON, I1EK)RK RESTORATION. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

of Worcester, and it is hoped the instrument may be installed 
by the end of the summer. The Lord Bishop has promised to 
come to Purton to dedicate the No. 4 bell, and will arrange 
his visit so that the organ may then also be consecrated. 

Old Morgan Staley was the Clerk who said the responses 
in the days when the three-decker pulpit was still in our Church. 
He was famous for his powerful Amens, which he repeated in 
a loud, sonorous tone. On one occasion only he failed in this 
response, to the amazement of the congregation. What had 
happened was this. Staley had only one eye, and wore glasses. 
Unknown to him, the glass over his remaining eye fell out of 
his spectacles, and finding himself, as he thought, blind, 
he for once forgot to say his Amen. 

The following is a list of the Vicars of Purton, with the names 
of the Patrons : 

Patrons. Vicars. 

1299. Abbot of Malmesbury 

1312. ,, ,, ,, Johannus de Hauteford. 

1316. ,, ,, Johannus de Haydoy. 

1349. Ricardius de Bristolia. 

1384. Robertus de Suttleton. 

1389. Nicholas Wods. 

1409. ,, ,, ., Robertus Denly. 

1409. ,, ,, ,, Johannus Burnet. 

1444. ,, ,, Henricus Pyke. 

1478. Johannus, Abbas de Abingdon. Johannus Lyneham. 

I 5 I 5- Johannus Kyte, Capelanus et Johannus Frankelyn. 

Thomas Hawkins. 

I 555- Edmundus Brydges Miles. Johannus Hyte. 

1569. Ditto et Ducis Chandos, Thomas Roberts. 

Baro de Sudley. 

I 573- Dorathea Chandos vidua et do. John Prendergast. 

1582. do. et Gab'l. Knowles Gul Symons. 

1601. do. Rob Price. 

1629. Johannus Cooper Miles. Rob Symons. 

1664. Anthonus Dominus Ashley. Jacobi Hemerford. 

Baro de Wimborne. 

1664. do. do. Gulielemus Bath. 

1715, Maurice Ashley, Arsinger. Gul Alford. 



47 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Patrons. Vicars. 

1748. Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury. Richardus Glass. 

1762. ,, Nathanial Sandford. 

1771. The Bishop (by lapse). Gregory Sharpe. 
1771. Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury. John Prower. 

1828. ,, ,, John Mervyn Prower. 

1869. Walter Mitchell. 

1874. James Hewlett. 

1878. John Veysey. 

1917. Earl and Countess of Shaftes- The present Vicar, 

bury, Miss Warrender, The Robert Birch Harrison. 

Rev. Father Waggett, and 

Mr. Glynn. 

The oak choir stalls and the screen at the west entrance 
were erected in 1893, and the old font was rescued from its 
banishment and re-erected in the Church for use again in the 
christening of young Purtonians at the same date. It was 
found lying in the garden belonging to Mrs. Walsh's cottages ; 
it is octagonal, and of the local stone. 

In the Priest's Chamber are kept a number of ancient tomes 
relating to Articles of Apprenticeship, payment of tithes, and 
also lists of those parishioners who were in the workhouse, or 
who were in receipt of what in old days came under the name of 
" Extraordinaries," and now would be called out-relief. 

The first apprenticeship document is dated 1684, when 
Charles II. was King of England, and Robert Plomer and John 
Eatoll were overseers of Purton Parish. Anthony Stanley, 
son of William, described as " a poor child of the said Parish," 
was apprenticed to one John Askweeke, of Dauntsey, to learn 
the " trade art and mystery of a Largeweaver " for seven years 
" in the best manner,** his master promising to provide him 
with "meate, drinke, apparrell, and washinge, and lodginge, 
fitt for such an apprentice." At the end of the seven years 
Anthony was to be fitted out with " apparrell of all sorts good 
and new, that is to say, a good new suit for Holly-days." 

With a girl the wording was different, for we read that in 
1698 Eleanor Pannell was apprenticed to John Warman, of 
Malmesbury, and the indenture runs thus : 

" She shall not haunt, unless it be about her master's 

48 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

business there to be done, at the dise [dice], cards or any other 
unlawful game or games. She shall not play the goods of her 
said masters. 

" Inordinately she shall not waste, nor them to anyone lend 
without her master's lysons, marriage with any man within the 
said tenure she shall not contract, nor excuse, nor from her 
said service, either by day or by night shall absent and prolong 
herself, but as a true and faithful servant ought . . . behave 
herself towards her Master and Dame as well in words as in 
deeds." 

In return for all this she was to be instructed in the 
*' art craft or mystery of Cows-lard making " and to receive 
food and clothing. The Justices who signed her indenture were 
Edmund Pleydell and Nevil Maskelyne. 

An entry dated " May ye i8th 1728," shows a touch of 
humour. It says : 

" Then received of ye Revd. Mr. Glasse ye sum of sixteen 
pounds in full for work, coals, and all other demands whatever, 
from ye beginning of ye World to this day. Witness my hand. 

" The mark of X. Hun More. 16. o. o. 

" Witnefs Jno Clerks." 

In the reference to Purton Mill dated October iQth, 1744, 
we find a coincidence, for then, as now, a Lewis lived there, 
and " Elizth Lewis, late Orchard, pd ye Tythe of ye Mill for 9 
years to Lady Day 12. o. o." 

Then " Betty Giles " seems to have been somewhat slack 
in meeting her obligations, for on August 2ist, 1744, it was 
recorded that she paid for tithe, 

" 4 cows in ye common 020 

12 lambs 030 

12 sheep 4 months i o 



But the sinister note follows : " N.B. Betty Giles to account to 
Mr. Wheeler and Miss Langston for 2 years due Lady Day last." 
Among the " Extraordinaries " are some quaint entries, 
for we find : " 1757. Gave William Bayley. His wife having 
the small pox 55." Poor William, we wonder how he laid 
it out, and whether he too fell a victim. 

49 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Then on July ist of the same year comes : " Bread and Cheese 
at John Stanley's wifes burial 33. For Ale 33. 9|d." 

Needlework was not too highly paid, as " For making i shift 
for Anne Ayrog 5d. was given," while for " digging the graves 
and ringing the bells " 35. 6d. was the amount allowed. 

Moses Slade on July i8th, 1769, " hurt himself mowing, 
and got 2s. " and Mary Cutts got "is. for her young child 
being much burnt." 

The entries are written in the old style, and want some 
practice to decipher, but luckily the following was not missed : 
" Gave Mary Lewis by order of vestry to buy ale, bread and 
cheese at her lying in 53." 

It is surely well to impress upon the young the spirit of 
reverence, and that the Church and God's Acre which surrounds 
it are hallowed ground. In the old days this was unhappily 
not the custom, for we are told that when any parishioner 
wanted a good flat stone, he repaired to the graveyard to pick 
out one which might suit his purpose. It is even said that 
someone in Purton wanting a new bottom for his oven upon 
which to bake his bread pressed a tombstone into the service, 
and when the bread was duly baked, plainly upon the bottom 
of the large loaf could be read the words, " Here lies the body 
of . . ." 

The following lines have been well known in the neighbour- 
hood as a song for many years in illustration of the story 
just related, which no doubt, like other tales, has " not lost in 
the telling." 

THE VILLAGE BAKER. 



i. 

Job Jenkins was a baker and 

A very honest elf, 
By selling crust and crumbs he made 

A tidy crust himself, 
But Job he lived in better days 

When bills were freely paid, 
And bakers were thought honest then 

So bread was never weighed. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 



n. 

While walking through the old Churchyard 

He saw some old tombstones, 
That long had marked the resting-place 

Of some poor neighbour's bones, 
"These bodies long have gone to dust, 

These stones no use," he said, 
"They '11 mend my oven and improve 

My very next batch of bread." 

in. 

Tom Snooks, the parish mason, 

A very sporting blade, 
Who in race horses and the dead 

Had done a tidy trade, 
To him Job gave the order, 

Regardless of amount, 
And charged it to the Parish 

In his next half-year's account. 

IV. 

The job was done the bread was baked 

Job, in his highest glee 
Sat up to draw the batch that he 

Might great improvement see, 
But soon as drawn he " slope the pill " 1 

With horror in his looks, 
And rushed out like a madman 

And knocked down Tommy Snooks ! 

v. 

" Get up, you wretch, and come and see 

The blunder you have made, 
Your tombstone bottom sure will prove 

A deathblow to my trade, 
I know that when you 're in the whim 

At trifles you don't stick, 
And by your trick you 've spoilt my batch 

My cottage, square and brick." 

1 Pill means corner; A.-S., slipped away. 
51 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

VI. 

He took him to the bakehouse, 

Where a curious sight was seen, 
The words on every loaf were marked 

That had on tombstone been, 
One quartern had " in memory of " 

Another " here to pine," 
The third " departed from this life 

At the age of ninety nine." 

VII. 

A batch of rolls when they were done 

Had on the bottom plain, 
The trusting words distinctly marked 

" In hopes to rise again," 
A batch of penny loaves came next 

Which said " our time is past, 
Thus day by day, we 've pined away, 

And come to this at last." 

VIII. 

Tom Snooks now turned his head away 

His laughter to conceal, he said" he thought 
It a nobby way in making a bread seal." 

Says Job, " This seal has sealed my fate 
How can I sell my bread ? 
To feed the living, when it bears, 
The motto of the dead ? " 

1 From Mr. John Greenham. 



CHAPTER VII 

AN ANCIENT RECORD OF PURTON OLD FAMILIES A MYSTERY 
THE " ANCREN RIWLE " OLD PURTON FOLK 

IN an ancient volume * published 1659-70 we find the following 
account of Purton : 

" Three miles South of Cricklade is a village called Purton, 
which is very pleasantly situated, and has a handsome Church, 
with several good buildings, and is well inhabited. A few years 
ago, as some men were digging to make a grave in the Chancel 
of the Church, they struck against a stone coffin about three 
feet below the surface of the ground, and, having with some 
difficulty raised it up, it was found to measure 6' 6" in length, 
22" broad, n" deep and 3" thick, except the head which was 
hollowed with great art, but the rest of the coffin was rude 
workmanship. It was impossible to determine the time when 
this had been first deposited, as neither figure nor inscription 
were to be seen. 

" In it were found three skulls of the common size, supposed 
to have been forced into it by accident, when other graves had 
been opened in the place, and this opinion is the more probable, 
from there having been a wooden lid to the coffin." 

The old family of Goddard held considerable property in 
Purton, Francis, second son of Edward Goddard, of Clyfie, 
having held the Purton House Estate. He was succeeded by 
Edward, and after him Anthony Goddard, who married Mary 
Evans, and was buried at Purton in 1725, leaving an infant son 
to succeed him, afterwards Richard Goddard, M.D., of Purton 
House, who married a daughter of Sir J. Willes. His only 
daughter married Robert Wilsonn, R.N. Their eldest of four 
daughters married Richard Miles, who purchased the property 
from his mother-in-law. After this Horatio Nelson Goddard, 
of Clyffe Pypard, was the owner, and from him, in 1843, Purton 
House was purchased by the well-remembered Major Prower. 

1 The New British Traveller. 

53 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Miss Maud Prower, who spends some months of the summer at 
Sissells, is his daughter. 

The Rev. John Prower, M:A., had succeeded the Rev. 
Gregory Sharpe as Vicar in 1771, and died aged 80 years in 
1827. He was succeeded by his son John Mervin Prower, 
who died in 1869, aged 85, the two Prowers having thus held 
the living for practically a century. 

Major Prower, of Purton House, was the son of the latter, 
and in a newspaper account of his day we find the following : 

" He was the first and readiest to assist in the work of the 
restoration of the Church, and his name was never mentioned 
by either rich or poor in the village, where he was best known, 
except lovingly, and where he was the representative of a 
Father and Grandfather who had for nearly a Century occupied 
the position of the ' Person of the Village.' " 

But if Major Prower was much beloved in Purton, where to 
this day his name is a household word, even more so was his 
wife, Mrs. Prower, who by her continued kindness and her 
royal gift of remembering faces had well earned for herself 
the soubriquet of " The Mother of the Village." 

It was a sad day for her when for various reasons it became 
necessary to leave the dear old home where her children were 
born, and where she was so much appreciated by all who knew 
her, but such was Fate. 

It was in the year 1872 that the work in the Church began, 
and the total cost of the restoration then undertaken was 
2,500. Of this Major Prower gave 1,000, Lord Shaftesbury 
gave 100 and half an acre of land, Mr. C. Wykeham-Martin 
100, Mrs. Plummer 100, and Mr. S. C. Sadler and other 
parishioners contributed liberally. 

An old feature of the graveyard at Purton is the yew, 
strapped together with its iron bands, and another the stem of 
the old Preaching Cross, both memorials of the days of open-air 
worship in God's Acre. Since the loss of so many of our Purton 
heroes in the War, it has been the custom on festival days and 
anniversaries to hang a laurel wreath on the old cross base 
in loving memory oi the fallen, with a card bearing their 
names and a few lines of comfort for sorrowing hearts. 

These ancient Preaching Crosses are said to have been often 
in place before the village churches were built, hence the name, 

54 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

as about them the congregation gathered to hear the preacher, 
and around them were laid to rest in God's Acre those who had 
finished their life's journey. Often these holy places were lent 
for unworthy use, such as trading, Church Ales, etc., of which we 
have spoken elsewhere, and in some places bones are found 
outside what is now the boundary. This may account for the 
skeletons turning up in what was once the Purton Vicarage 
garden and shrubbery. 

In a wonderful structure such as Purton Church there is 
much to hold the imagination. One wonders who designed, 
who built it ? Architects, workmen, all long forgotten. 
Generation after generation of worshippers have followed each 
other, and each and all gone in their turn. One feels that the 
prayers and praises from so many lips must have hallowed and 
beautified the very arches, pillars and stones as the centuries 
slipped away. But in the year 1872 a real surprise and 
unfathomable mystery was brought to light in the remarkable 
discovery of an adult female skeleton built up in a cavity in 
the chancel wall. 

In the angle formed by the north transept and the chancel 
there was a chapel, now used as a vestry. At some time the 
entrance to this chapel was closed. During the work of 
restoration about forty years ago the stonework on the north 
transept side was removed, and a low oak screen substituted. 
On the chancel side a plain doorway was discovered. When 
the workmen were pinning the end of the east wall of this 
chapel into the chancel wall, they found that four feet from 
the floor the wall was hollow, and on opening it found the 
skeleton lying at full length, the head and shoulders in a cavity 
cut out in the chancel wall, the remainder of the body being 
in the chapel wall. The cavities in both walls had been specially 
prepared, and when the body was in position the wall was 
built up. Who was this woman, and what was her story ? 
Was she a recluse ? Probably so, and the recess in which 
the head lay was the outlook through which a view of the 
altar was obtained. 

The Church at Edington in Wiltshire had such a reclusorium, 
and possibly some solitary enthusiast connected with the Abbey 
of Malmesbury elected to spend her days in a living tomb. 
In the story of Thaysis, told in the " Golden Legend," we have a 

55 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

picture of a recluse : " She went to the place which the Abbot 
had assyned to her, and there was a monasterye of vyrgns, 
and there he closed her in a cell, and sealed the door with led 
And the cell was lytyll and strayte, and but one lytyll window 
open, by which was mynistered to her poor lyvinge : for the 
Abbot commanded that they should gyve her a lytell brede 
and water.". If this room or chapel could tell its tale, no doubt 
it would be of great interest. Originally there were three 
windows, one looking north, one west, and one south, but these 
had been so effectively filled and closed that nothing but the 
dead blank wall met the eye. Over this room or chapel there 
was a second chamber ascended by an incline, the whole being 
covered by a heavy stone roof. The birds built their nests 
there, and the boys went up to rob them, but they never 
ventured to enter the lower chamber. The tradition was that 
no one must go in there, and it is supposed Canon Prower 
knew why, as when about eighty years ago it was suggested to 
him it might be used as a robing room, he asked that the subject 
should not be referred to again, that its history bore some 
reference to a former vicar, and that a " dark deed " had been 
committed there. The finding of the skeleton intensified but 
did not explain the mystery. 1 

The following lines on a nun immured in Purton Church, 
Wilts, whose skeleton was discovered in 1872, give a version of 
what may have happened : 

Take thy candle, hold the Cross, 

Thou must die for mortal sin, 
Better bear the body's loss 

Than the loss of soul within. 

Lady Abbess lead the way, 

Sister, check thy rising tear ; 
Do not pity rather pray ; 

She is lost to all but fear. 

Press her body to the wall, 

Leave unclosed a narrow space, 
That she may hear our mercy call 

From the priest in holy place. 

1 From Mr. Veysey's Notes. 
56 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Scanty food may pass her lips, 
Lengthen thus her parting wail, 

This may plead in life's eclipse 
When no other plea avail. 

Seal the tomb, the mass is said 
Ere the well-spread mortar dry, 

We declare our daughter dead 
Though we hear a muffled cry. 



Four hundred years ! her bones are white, 

Mute witness of barbaric creed, 
\Vhere darkness brooded, till the night 

Of Love Divine and fetters freed. 

C. J. L ANGST ON. 

But as we have already said, other places besides Purton 
had these recluses, if such this mysterious woman was, who 
of their own free will gave a vow to enter the cell and never 
more to leave it. It was usual, but not necessary, for them to 
belong to one or other of the religious orders. 

The more or less solitary life of the anchoress or recluse 
had at this time (A.D. 1373), as earlier, many followers in the 
country parts and large towns of England. Few of the 
women's " anchor holds " were in the open country, but many 
churches of the villages and towns had attached to them a 
timber or stone " cell," a little house of two or three rooms, 
inhabited by a recluse who never left it, and one servant or 
two for errands and protection. 1 

Occasionally a little group of recluses lived together, like 
those three young sisters of the thirteenth century, for whom 
the " Ancren Riwle," a rule or counsel for Ancres, was at their 
own request composed. The recluse's chamber seems to have 
had generally three windows (as at Purton), one looking into 
the adjacent church, so that she could take part in the services 
there, another communicating with one of those rooms under 
the keeping of her " maidens," in which occasionally a guest 
might be entertained, and a third, the " parlour " window, 
opening to the outside, to which all might come who desired 
to speak with her. 

1 From the Introduction to Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of 
Norwich, A.D. 1373. 

57 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

According to the " Ancren Riwle," the covering screen for 
this audience window was a curtain of double cloth, black, 
with a cross of white, through which the sunshine would 
penetrate, sign of " Dayspring from on High." This screen 
could, of course, be drawn back when the recluse held a 
" parliament " with any who came to her. 

In Malory's Morte d' Arthur we read : " So he kneeled at her 
window, and anon the recluse opened it, and asked Sir Perceval 
what he would. ' Madam/ said he, ' I am a Knight of King 
Arthur's court, and my name is Sir Perceval de Galis.' So 
when the recluse heard his name, she had passing great joy of 
him, for greatly she loved him before all other knights of the 
world, and so of right she ought to do, for she was his aunt." 

The vows taken by recluses ran in this fashion : " I offering 
yield myself to the Divine Goodness for service, in the order 
of anchorites, and I promise to continue in the service of God 
after the rule of that order by Divine grace, and the counsel of 
the Church, and to show Canonical obedience to my ghostly 
Fathers." 

The injunction given to the recluses in the " Ancren Riwle " 
may still appeal to us, though six centuries have passed since 
it was penned. It runs thus : " At some time in the day or 
night, think upon and call to mind all who are sick and sorrowful, 
who suffer affliction and poverty, the pain which prisoners endure 
who lie heavily fettered with iron, think especially of the 
Christians who are amongst the heathen, some in prison, some 
in so great thraldom as is an ox or an ass ; compassionate those 
who are under strong temptations : take thought of all men's 
sorrows, and sigh to our Lord that He may take care of them 
and have compassion, and look upon them with a gracious 
eye, and if you have leisure repeat the Psalm ' I have lifted up 
mine eyes,' and pray, ' Stretch forth oh Lord to Thy servants 
and to Thy handmaids the right hand of Thy heavenly aid, 
that they may seek Thee with all their heart, and obtain what 
they worthily ask through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

Then in "The Scale of Perfection," by Walter Hilton, who 
died 1396, we read of " How an anchoress shall behave herself 
to them that come to her " : 

" Since it is so, that thou oughtest not to goe out of thy house 
to seek occasion how thou mightest profit thy neighbour by 

58 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

deeds of charity, because thou art enclosed, . . . therefore 
whoso will speake with thee ... be thou soon ready with 
a good will to aske what his will is ... for thou knowest 
not what he is, nor why he cometh, nor what need he hath 
of thee, or thou of him, till thou hast tried. And though 
thou be at prayer, or at thy devotions, that thou thinkest 
loth to break off, for that thou thinkest that thou oughtest not 
to leave God for to speake with anyone, I think not so in this 
case, for if thou be wise, thou shalt not leave God, but thou 
shalt find Him and have Him, and see Him in thy neighbour, 
as well as in prayer, only in another manner. 

" If thou canst love thy neighbour well, to speak with thy 
neighbour with discretion shall be no hindrance to thee . . . 
if he comes to tell thee his disease [distress] or trouble, and to 
be comforted by thy speech heare him gladly, and suffer him 
to say what he will, for ease of his own heart, and when he hath 
done, comfort him, if thou canst, gladly, gently, and charitably, 
and soon break off and then after that, if he will fall into idle 
tales, or vanities of the World, or of other men's actions, 
answer him but little, and feed not his speech and he will soon 
be weary, and quickly take his leave." l 



Everyone knew old Mrs. Cook and her husband, who for 
so many years lived in the Lodge at Purton House. The 
likeness opposite shows what a fine old woman she was, 
patience, goodness and many other virtues having stamped 
themselves in the lines which Time had written so freely on 
her face. Old Cook Was very deaf, and speaking of this in- 
firmity, she once said, " It is hard on John, why I has to kick 
'un to wake 'un." On one great occasion in their uneventful 
lives they were taken up to London by Major Prower. Old 
Cook was adorned in a brand new flowered waistcoat. What 
puzzled Mrs. Cook was the endless flow of people in the streets, 
and she remarked, " Hadn't we better stand in a doorway till 
the crowd is past ? " Doubtless her one day in London was 
never forgotten, and what she did and saw there was an oft-told 
tale ; but still she would have maintained against all comers 
that " London was all very well, but give / Purton for pleasure." 

1 MSS. in British Museum, edited by Grace Warrack.. 
59 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

like the historic lady from Peebles. She had a great grief in 
the sudden death of her daughter in 1911, and the old couple 
then left Purton, ana lived with a married daughter in 
Swindon till both passed away at a ripe old age. 

These old Purton folk have seen wonderful changes since 
their young days, when no G.W.R. Works in Swindon 
existed, and Purton was a sleepy hamlet much as it had been 
for five hundred years and more. It is a thousand pities that 
when houses were wanted for the Great Western employes 
the style of the village was not considered, and that the 
uncompromising red brick was substituted for the more dignified 
stone. What good advice he gave who once said, " Have 
nothing inside or outside your house unless it is useful or 
beautiful." If this were done, how much that to-day offends 
the eye and taste would not be seen. No horrible little terra- 
cotta faces would leer at us above doorways and windows, or 
eruptions of coloured tiles disfigure the walls. Inside a good 
print or two of well-known fine pictures would sweep away 
glaring atrocities in colours quite untrue to nature, and the 
plush bracket and tawdry mirror would give place to the fine 
old brass candlesticks, the grandfather's clock, and the copper 
warming-pan gleaming in the firelight, which in the old 
days gave such charm and beauty to a simple home. Yes, 
" useful or beautiful " is a very good rale and well worth 
remembering, though of course good taste has to be cultivated 
like other virtues. Still, there is no use in being like Mrs. 
Dombey, " who died for want of making an effort," and at least 
we can all do our best, according to the light that is in us. 

A line in the Purton record of past years may well be written 
on Henry Telling, of Pavenhill, who died in 1916, aged 87 years. 
For a quarter of a century he had dug the graves, and was 
much esteemed by the Prower family and other neighbours 
in his native village. 

The Commissioners of Edward VI. found a very small 
quantity of plate when they visited Purton. 

There is a chalice weighing 4 oz. and i| oz. " for the King." 
The stem, base and cover are certainly nearly one hundred 
years older than the bowl, and in all probability belong to an 
Elizabethan chalice of circa 1575, the bowl of which was altered 
in 1666. On the rim round the paten cover is inscribed, 

60 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

" John Gillum and William Shermur, Churchwardens of Purton 
1666." 

A paten resting on a foot, circa 1708, has inscribed underneath, 
" The gift of Fanny Righy, 1820." She was the eldest daughter 
of Robert Prbwer, M.D., and married the Rev. Hew Righy, 
Vicar of Hockley, dying in 1827. A modern service, chalice, 
paten and cruet-shaped flagon, inscribed, " Presented by 
Cornwallis and Anne Wykeham-Martin, a thankoffering for 
many mercies 1872," completes the collection. 

Old Mrs. Jefferies told the writer recently a story of Mr. 
Wykeham-Martin 's kind consideration for his poor neighbours. 
Her old mother was wheeling a heavy barrow to the station, 
and seeing that she seemed tired, Mr. Wykeham-Martin took 
the barrow from her and wheeled it down himself, calling to 
mind what Shakespeare wrote so long ago : " How far this little 
candle throws its beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty 
world." 

Mrs. Wykeham-Martin was a lady of much charity, and 
during her long and trying illness she diligently made warm 
garments for the poor. 

The Cottage Hospital was built at the expense of this 
family for the village, but it is no longer in use as such, for 
the patients are now sent to the more commodious Victoria 
Hospital in Swindon. 



61 



CHAPTER VIII 

OLD TITHES AND PORTIONS CRICKET MILLS CHARITIES 

THE tenure of the Abbey of Malmesbury of these lands (of 
Purton, etc.) extended over a period of more than eight centuries, 
but of the Saxon times we know nothing. During the reign of 
Edward I. the rent roll was taken in full. The Abbot received 
a large portion from both sources (spiritually and temporally), 
the remainder of the spiritualities were divided between the 
Chamberlain and the Pittancer, the Prior and the Cook sharing 
the smaUer part of the temporalities. The division between 
the two last seems to have been somewhat curious, for the Cook 
received ten times as much as the Prior, although that official 
ranked next in authority to the Abbot, and held the first place 
in Choir, Chapter and Refectory. 

Then there were also other dues to be paid by the manor 
for Peter's Pence and Pannage, for Church Scot in fowls and corn, 
dues too of fowls at Christmas, and eggs at Easter. Most of 
the holders oi land were tenants under the Abbey. Thus in the 
" Nomina Villarum " the Abbot of Malmesbury is returned as 
the only landowner in Purton against whom a writ of military 
summons can be issued. 

There is a grant of tithes made, we read, by Thomas, son of 
Adam de Peritone, in the early part of the thirteenth century. 
The acquisition of the Rectory and the pension granted to 
the retiring priest are interesting, in charters dated 1276-77. 
In the case of the Rectory, an addition at the end of the record 
furnishes us with the price paid for it, and as this exceeds 
only by 10 marks its (given) annual value, it went cheap. 
The Rector's pension was 20, and later commuted to 200 marks. 

In 1530 (two hundred and fifty years later the Rectory 
was valued at 59 los. od., the earlier having been 13 8s. 5d., 
not including payment in corn, fowl and eggs) forty-nine 
tenants were on the rent roll. l 

1 Wilts Notes and Queries. 
62 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

At the Domesday Survey the Abbey possessed only one mill 
in Purton, but during the abbacy of William of Colerne 
a second mill with a pond was added, and in the rent roll two 
mills are quoted. Abbot William claims our notice as an early 
restorer of Purton Church, round which he erected a strong wall. 
Another work of his in Purton was a stone-roofed grange 
probably Mrs. Walsh's great Tithe Barn. He also caused new 
gardens to be laid out. In the paragraph that alludes to 
Abbot William's work at Purton one new garden (unum novum 
gardinum) and a lower garden were mentioned, and in that 
lower garden two fishponds were constructed by his order, now 
over six hundred years ago, doubtless those which still lie at the 
foot of the vicarage garden. The late Vicar told the writer he 
had seen a deed at Malmesbury granting (in thirteenth century) 
the orchard to " the poor vicar of Purton." 



The Workmen's Institute. 

This was the gift in 1879 of Mr. James Sadler, and was built 
on the site of an old and dilapidated building, originally built 
in 1770 for a school. The architect was Mr. Orlando Baker, of 
New Swindon, and the builder Mr. James Grey, of Purton, 
and the cost was 2,000. At the foundation ceremony, after 
a prayer had been said by the Vicar, Mrs. Fisher laid the 
foundation stone. Mr. MacKnight gave an address, saying 
" he remembered when the villagers came to Church in their 
clean white smock-frocks, but broad-cloth was now worn." 
Underneath the foundation stone was placed a bottle containing 
The North Wilts Herald, The Daily Telegraph, a few coins of 
the realm, and a parchment with particulars of the donor. 
The building was opened in 1880 by the Earl of Shaftesbury. 

Purton Cricket Club is of far fame, and the site is one of 
great beauty and extensive views. It was generously presented 
to the Club by Mr. J. H. Sadler in 1911. Previous to this it 
was part of the Purton House Estate, but cricket matches have 
been played there for many a day, the first recorded match being 
one between Lansdown C.C. and Purton C.C., which took place in 
the year 1834. John Smith, of Ramsbury Manor, once walked 
the eighteen miles to play, breakfasting en route at Swindon. 

63 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

He scored fifty in his first innings, and a friend bet him he would 
not repeat the feat in his second. He had forty-eight, and he hit a 
two, but his partner ran one short, making him forty-nine, and 
next ball he was out, so he lost his bet, but walked back 
undefeated to Ramsbury. The Pavilion was erected in 1854. In 
the year 1869 the old Club became defunct, for an Archery Club 
flourished about the seventies for ten years or more. Mr. Clement 
Scott, the author and dramatist, wrote in 1895 : "We were taught 
to believe at Marlborough that the Purton Club was a kind 
of divine Cricket Olympia." 

Any reference to cricket at Purton would be incomplete 
without the name of Mr. Hastings, who did so much for the Club, 
taking both time and trouble to further its interests. Our 
best batting average is held at present by Mr. Stephen Brown, 
and the best bowling average by Mr. Haskins. 

Purton Allotments. 

These were obtained at the suggestion of Mr. Mac Knight 
from the great and good Lord Shaftesbury in the year 1863, 
and since then have been let to the surrounding inhabitants, 
providing them with work in their spare time, and producing 
vegetables for their families. 

Near the allotments, at the Fox, is a quarry, on Mr. Sadler's 
property, and from time to time interesting discoveries in 
the shape of iron knives, swords and spears have come to light 
there. The greatest find, however, was in the autumn of 
1911, when several skeletons and an ancient sword were 
unearthed. These are now carefully treasured in the County 
Museum at Devizes. 

The antiquary, Mr. B. G. Cunnington, writing in 1912 
of the finds at the Quarry said : " There is little doubt that this 
is a Saxon cemetery, as both the sword found last week and 
the spear-head found to-day are without doubt Saxon." 

A blue glass bead was also found, and Mr. Cunnington 
refers to the above discoveries as " these most interesting relics 
of Saxondom in Wiltshire." 

Schools. 

These were built in 1860 by the exertions of the Rev. Digby 
Octavius Cotes, M.A., of Balliol College, Oxon., his wife, 

64 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Mrs. Cotes, and her two sisters, the Misses Bathe, contributing 
largely to the cost. Mrs. Cotes also, at her own expense, 
moved the Chapel of Ease at Braydon from its former site to 
where it now stands. The family of Bathe has for many 
centuries been connected with Purton. William Bathe in the 
year 1664 was Vicar, and owned the Ponds Farm, then called 
" the Mansion House at Stoake." A letter beginning " Good Mr. 
Bathe " and signed " your very affectionate servant Clarendon " 
shows he was on the best of terms with that most illustrious 
of Purton families, the Hydes. The " Mansion House at 
Stoake," as it stands to-day with the moat which still surrounds 
it, was once the scene of a tragedy, as a little Bathe boy was 
drowned in it. 

The pretty picture of Purton Church (see p. 47) was picked 
up at an old bookseller's, and sent to Wilts Notes and Queries, 
and was identified as belonging to No. XXXVI. Marshall's 
select views in Great Britain published 1827 (Dec.) by 
W. Marshall I. Holborn Bars. London. Printed by W. T. Ruffy 
29. Budge Row. price 6d. 

Mills. 

There are two mills, and some controversy has arisen 
as to which is the original Purton Mill. Both are on the banks 
of a tiny tributary of the Thames which rises at Restrop, 
passes the south wall of the churchyard, flows through the 
grounds of Purton House, passes the old Milk House, and so to 
Purton Mill, now in the occupation of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis. 
Both the Purton Mill and at Mr. and Mrs. Greenham's farm 
the Ridgeway Mill, about a mile to the east, are mentioned as 
belonging to Malmesbury Abbey. Ridgeway as it now stands 
is certainly not older than the time of Queen Elizabeth, and 
Purton Mill has been entirely rebuilt during the last half century. 
But when we take designs and situations of the Mills into 
consideration we may gather some information. We conclude 
that whatever collection of dwellings there may have been in 
old days would be near the Church, market place, or some 
social centre. Now a mill to be useful should be convenient 
for those who wish to use it, and it seems probable that on 
building a second mill it should be nearer or close to a good road, 
in hopes of obtaining some advantage over the older mill, 
and so procuring the desired custom. At Ridgeway the mill 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

pond is small, the stone escarpment very limited, while at 
Purton Mill the pond is large, well made and extensively 
edged with stone, and speaks of the handiwork of an able and 
wealthy person, as Abbot William of Colerne is known to have 
been. In the Malmesbury register it is spoken of as a fishpond, 
and so evidently of sufficient importance. Thus we may assume 
that the Wiltshire farmer who used the Ridgeway Mill may 
have carried his corn to the identical spot to which his sturdy 
ancestor the Saxon ceoil did more than a thousand years ago. 
Purton Mill is recorded in Domesday Book, and was then valued 
at 53. Millers were an ancient, jovial and well-to-do race, and 
their calling went from father to son. In 1241 we find William, 
son of Richard (presumably both millers), and John, Abbot 
of Malmesbur}', mentioned in a " concord " wherein Purton Mill 
and about 20 acres of land were granted to William and his 
heirs for ever for the rent of 133. 4|d. per annum. x A 
document dated 1306 speaking of Purton Mill is extant. The 
Ridgeway Mill ultimately passed into the possession of 
Pembroke College, Oxon. * 

Parish Charities. 

Nevil Maskelyne, who died about 1679, charged the Pry 
Pasture with a yearly payment of 5 to the poor of Purton, 
and with a further payment of los. to a minister for preaching 
a sermon on Good Friday. 

deed's Charity. 

Frances Gleed gave 200, the rents and profits to the poor 
housekeepers of the parish not receiving weekly alms, IDS. 
once a year. The poor relations of the benefactor living in the 
parish should be preferred before others, whether they receive 
weekly alms or not. The 200 was invested in land situate 
at the Cross Lanes, on the north side of Hawk's Moor Lane, 
two fields of pasture containing about 13 acres, called Poor's 
Land. The Wilts and Berks Canal paid 10 down on taking 
possession of a small portion of Gleed's Charity in 1816. 

1 Reg. Malm., vol. ii., p. 320. 
* Wills Notes and Queries. 



66 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Hiscock's Leaze. 

In an Act of Parliament passed in 1795 we read that " in the 
year 1778 it had been agreed at a lawful vestry that the rents 
and profits of the late Hiscock's Leaze in the Common should 
be given to the poor for ever, every year on Good Friday.'* 
In Parliamentary returns dated 1786 the following charity 
is mentioned : " Epaphroditus New, 1640, gave to the poor 
30 in money, producing i 75. od. then land." The parish knew 
nothing about this charity, but as Hiscock's Leaze is not men- 
tioned, it might have been purchased with the 30 given by New." 

Miriam Stevens left in 1723, at her daughter's death, 
17 os. od, " without deduction for ever," 16 os. od. to maintain 
a schoolmaster to teach twenty poor children " reading, writing 
and accounts," and los. for a sermon to be preached on Easter 
Monday by the Vicar of Purton, the Rectors of Lydiard Millicent 
and Lydiard Tregoze, yearly in their turns, and los. for a dinner 
for the preacher, and the remaining los. to the schoolmaster, 
for keeping a book with said sums, and the names of the children. 
The Vicar and two Rectors to be trustees for ever, to render the 
charity as beneficial as it could be. The money rolled up for 
five years, when the Trustees obtained from Lord Shaftesbury 
a lease of a house and garden (on the site of the present Institute) 
for three lives for 25. They built a schoolroom adjoining with 
the rent charge saved and some subscriptions. It all cost 
120. Two of the lives above mentioned were Thomas Plummer 
and Richard Garlick Bathe. The Vicar chose the twenty 
children who were educated free, and there were always 
numerous applications ; the schoolmaster had in addition 
about fifteen paying scholars. 

Poor's Platt Charity. 

In 1834 it was stated in a Parliamentary report that this 
twenty-five acres of land was granted by King Charles by letters 
patent to the poor of Purton Stoke, in lieu of their right of 
feeding their cattle and picking wood in Braydon Forest, 
at the time of the disafforestation. However, this was found 
to be inaccurate, as they were given under a decree of the Court 
of Exchequer dated November igth in the sixth year of King 
Charles' reign. Another mistake occurred, in that the Charity 
came to be applied to the whole of Purton, instead of Purton 

67 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Stoke alone, so after this the words " Poor of the hamlet of 
Purton Stoke " were to be included in the new decree drawn 
up in the reign of George II. It had also become habitual 
to restrict the charity to about twenty-three inhabitants 
whose houses were there at the date of this decree, and these 
people had the nominating of the Trustees, and though new 
houses were built, they refused to allow them to participate 
in the charity. The Parish Council, soon after its establishment, 
found out how matters stood, and discovered that some of the 
recipients were in good circumstances and not subjects suitable 
for relief at all. 

Trustees were therefore appointed, and the letting of the 
land takes place each year on the first Thursday after Old 
Christmas (January 6th). It is carried out by the curious 
ceremony of " Chalking the Bellows ! " 

The bellows are taken round by the landlord of " The Bell " 
at Purton Stoke, accompanied by one of the tenants of the 
preceding year, who is given the option of making the first bid. 
This is done by chalking the amount on the bellows. When 
the bellows have been passed round the room three times 
without an advance, on arriving the third time at the last 
bidder he becomes the tenant for the ensuing year. 

This custom has been observed for at least a hundred years, 
probably for very much longer. The rents received in 1900 were 
13 and 15. There are no buildings, only pasture. The con- 
ditions are that the grass may not be mown, but twice a year 
the thistles must be cut. The tenant undertakes to keep 
" mounds and fences " in repair, to pay all rates and taxes, 
except the Thames valley drainage rate. He has to find a 
surety for 20. No manure may be removed from the land. 
2 2s. od. is annually deducted for refreshments for the Trustees. 
The poor recipients receive sums from IDS. upwards, according 
to their circumstances. 

Another curious way of auctioning land is by cutting 
a candle one inch in length and lighting it, and as soon as this 
is done the bidding begins. He whose bid is given as the 
flame flickers out is the winner. 

These old customs are interesting, and one would like 
to know whether they are used in other districts beyond 
Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. 

68 




Ok 



1'URTON HOUSE, WILTSHIRE, 1917, FROM "THE GREEN WALK." 




THE GREAT CEDAR, PURTON HOUSE, WILTSHIRE. 



CHAPTER IX 

PURTON HOUSE THE MANOR HOUSE 

THE history of Purton House seems to be closely connected 
with the old mill which stands about half a mile below, and 
which in an Inq. P.M. of Henry Maskelyne 16 Chas. I. is called 
Chester Mill, and elsewhere Chester's Mill, probably from the 
name of the miller then in possession. At this time Purton 
House appears to have gone by the name of Chamberlaynes, 
and the property passed into the possession of Francis Goddard 
under this title in the seventeenth century. 

The Brydges family had been the owners when it passed 
out of the hands of Malmesbury Abbey at the Dissolution of 
the Monasteries, represented by Lord Chandos, of Sudeley. * 

In the Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xxx., we find an article, 
" Purton, A Case in the Star-Chamber," and in it we read that 
the tithes of the Manor of Purton pertained to the office of the 
Chamberlain of Malmesbury Abbey. From this we may assume 
some connection between this ancient house and the tithes 
collected for the Chamberlain of Malmesbury Abbey. Possibly 
the tithes were brought there to the Chamberlain, and hence the 
name. 

Anyhow, the site is one of great antiquity, and many a 
century has passed since the first stone was placed in position ; 
it must be at least two hundred years since the wonderful 
elms in the park and pleasure grounds were planted. 

The name of Chamberlaynes appears to have been given up 
when the Goddards took possession about the middle of the 
seventeenth century, and Purton House has been the name 
certainly for the last two hundred years. 

The earliest deed extant is dated 1698, and an interesting 
map, drawn a few years later, with its " kitching and little 
gardens," coppices and fishponds, shows the house to have been 
similar in shape to the charming pencil sketch drawn by 

1 John Aubrey, see Chapter iv. 
69 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Mrs. Story-Maskelyne about a hundred years afterwards. These 
fishponds were three in number, and bear out the idea of 
monastic ownership, as, always wise and provident for their 
creature comforts, the old monks' well-known rule and custom, 
was to have three ponds to be used in rotation to hold their 
fish, one of the three ponds being annually drained and sown 
with a crop to keep all fresh and wholesome, and ensure no 
possible sediment remaining at the bottom. 

When the present owner took possession in 1911 he found 
a charge of us. a year payable to no less than seven different 
persons in the shape of a fee-farm rent, and the schedule relating 
to it ran as follows : 

" Wilts No. 248. 

" All that annual or fee-farm rent of us., issuing or payable 
out of, or for Purton House, Purton, in the County of Wilts 
(formerly part of the possessions of the late Monastery of 
Malmesbury)." 

If interesting from age, it was a tiresome transaction, and 
so for the sum of 16 " the seven " were induced to abandon 
their claim, and the new owner obtained an indefeasible title, 
which had not been enjoyed since the Dissolution of the 
Monasteries. The underground stream, which, after flowing 
through the fishponds in the vicarage garden, wends its way 
under the road and beneath the present-day kitchen garden 
at Purton House, has a sluice arranged to feed the lake when 
desired, and this is probably part of the old water system, 
when the mill below was an object of some importance, and 
is mentioned as such in the Domesday Book. 

Francis Goddard, was followed by Edward Anthony and 
Richard, of whom we have already given some particulars, 
and after their day the place passed through the hands of 
many owners, as some say Church lands are wont to do. 
The deeds tell the story of sales, mortgages, and leases ; truly, 
amidst the cloud of words and " vain repetitions " it is no 
easy task to discover what is doubtless of interest to record. 
In the old days the orchard was much larger, stretching almost 
half-way across the present park, and the ridge of its 
boundary fence can now be plainly seen, four huge trees 
marking the upper line. The coppices, which now are divided, 

70 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

were formerly joined in a continuous line across the top of the 
park. 

In a deed of sale of the property of Mrs. Sarah Miles to 
Horatio Nelson Goddard, in 1840, the house is referred to as 
" All that newly built capital messuage, tenement or dwelling 
house," and also speaks of the older house as " that ancient 
messuage, etc.," which was "taken down." Later in this 
voluminous deed a reference is made to " all the Close, pick, or 
parcel of pasture ground, commonly called the Coneygar, and 
two Coppices . . . the Coneygar being now flooded and 
covered with water." 

The word " Coneygar " means in old English a rabbit warren, 
so apparently the bed of the present lake was once the haunt 
of the coney, long since departed. 

From the deed just mentioned it therefore appears that 
certainly the principal rooms were built in the thirties, and the 
fine porch with its Ionic pillars on the western side of the house 
took the place of the older eastern entrance, when the drive 
had run across the Home Close to the Highworth Road with a 
graceful curve. 

It seems that the centre of the house was left intact, except 
for the rooi, when this demolition took place, as in the room 
which is now used as a library, and was formerly the servants' 
hall, a different style is found, and the wall to the adjoining 
room measures nearly four feet in thickness ; also the appearance 
of the house outside in this part (and the bedrooms above) is 
similar to what we see in Mrs. Maskelyne's sketch. The servants' 
wing was added by Major Prower, with the offices below, in 1863. 

Old Mrs. Selwood, still alive, clearly remembers the building 
of the house, and relates that while this was in course of erection 
the family lived in the older wing, which ran in the direction of 
the kitchen garden, and was taken down in its turn when the 
mansion was fit for habitation. Events make a marvellous 
impression on a child's brain, and though nearing her centenary, 
she can still talk and tell of what must have happened at 
least ninety years ago. 

After the Prowers' day the Rajah of Sarawak, who had 
married a Wiltshire lady, Miss de Windt, bought Purton House ; 
but it is said the church bells got on the Ranee's nerves, 1 

1 At that date the bell was tolled all day when a parishioner died. 

71 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

and so they only stayed a short time. The Russell family 
took a lease from the Rajah, and at last purchased the place 
in 1899. Miss Russell having bought Red House, went to live 
there in 1908. The present owner made many interior, altera- 
tions to bring things up to modern requirements, and relieved 
the house from a dense mass of trees and shrubs which had 
surrounded it. He formed the terrace round the south front, 
took in 'a considerable piece of the Home Close as pleasure 
ground, planting a yew hedge in 1915, and in the preceding 
autumn laid out the beginning of the rose garden with its paved 
walks, gay with rock plants, and a stone dial to mark " only the 
sunny hours." When planting shrubs opposite the garden 
wall a few years ago an old key was dug up, which was of such 
a quaint shape that the writer took it up to London to show to 
the expert at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He pronounced 
it to be fourteenth century, and one of the earliest of keys. A 
silver token was dug up in the yard, and many copper coins 
of various dates have come to light. 

The Green Walk, so called in the old deeds, runs along the 
entire length of the lake, which is about two acres in extent, 
with a stoned-faced ha-ha, and is shown exactly as at present 
in a prettily coloured map dated 1824. 

In ancient days the " way in " was by the side walk, now 
called the " Monk's Walk," with its ivied wall and clipped yew 
hedge, a grateful shade on a summer day. It would indeed be 
difficult to find a more peaceful scene than when from the 
Green Walk by the large Irish yew, on a still evening in June 
one looks across the lake at the venerable grey towers and spire 
of the grand old Church, which with the copper beech, the 
great cedar, and Purton House itself, lie mirrored in the still 
waters. This great cedar was planted by Sir George Hayter, 
the famous early Victorian portrait and historical painter. 
He was staying at Purton House about seventy years ago in 
order to paint Major and Mrs. Prower's pictures, and so com- 
memorated his visit. The story goes that some goats, trespassing 
where they should not, nibbled the top off the young tree, the 
result being that, failing its leader, the tree broke out into 
what became the fourteen mighty limbs of later days. 

Sir George Hayter also painted the portrait of Canon 
Prower, which now hangs at Sissells, a pleasant picture and, 

72 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

it is said, an excellent likeness. One old John Templer, who 
knew him well, remarked when shown the picture that " it 
looked as if ' Passon ' had had a glass of wine." 

In this connection a story told recently by an old inhabitant 
may be given. He said that in the good old days Major Prower 
held a temperance meeting at Purton House (which cause he 
had much at heart), and that after tea he stepped out of the 
dining-room window and addressed the meeting as follows : 
" I like my glass of beer, and I like to see my men enjoy it." 
This was all the old man remembered, though doubtless Major 
Prower had more to say which is not recorded. 

The present owner, Captain Arthur Percy Richardson, is 
an Ulsterman by birth, his family having settled there in the 
days of the famous Plantation, from the borders of Oxfordshire 
and Warwickshire, where his ancestor, the Rev. John 
Richardson, M.A. Oxon., held considerable "landes" in the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries around Mollington. 
Captain Richardson served for eight years with the 5th Batt. 
Royal Irish Rifles, and on the outbreak of war offered his 
services in any capacity to the War Office. He was appointed 
Adjutant to the National Reserve at Swindon, and after five 
months' voluntary work there re-enrolling reservists, he was 
offered the command of a company in the loth Batt. The Suffolk 
Regiment, in which he served for six months, a medical report 
preventing his going, as he hoped, to France. 

His two surviving sons are : 

Edmond St. John, who served with the Wiltshire Yeomanry 
during the Great War as a trooper until rheumatism obliged 
him to leave. He had previously held a commission for four 
years in the Denbighshire Hussars Yeomanry. 

Arthur Kenneth, commands a company in the 3rd Batt. 
Royal Welch Fusiliers, having served in the trenches in France 
with the immortal 7th Division for seven months in 1914-15, 
and taking part in the Battle of Festubert, when he commanded 
the trench-mortar guns in the 22nd Brigade, and was one of five 
officers left in the regiment after the battle. 

Capt. A. P. Richardson is a member of the Carlton Club, 
and was formerly Master of the Old Killultagh Harriers in County 
Antrim. 

A few touching lines are to be seen on a grey headstone in 

73 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

the churchyard, of one William Andrews, who with his " kind 
master true " laid out the woodland walks at Purton House. * 

" Here sleepeth one who lived devoid of all, 
Hasty in word, but very kind of heart, 
Skilled in business, giving all their due, 
Honest and just, to his kind master true, 
Rejoicing in the Park, and Lake, and Shade 
Of woodland paths, he and his master made, 
Wife, children, neighbours, bless his Christian end. 
And mourn the loss of husband, Father, Friend." 

Died June ist 1847 born 1777. 

In Gary's B New Itinery of the Great Roads with Noblemen's 
and Gentlemen's seats of England and Wales and parts of Scotland, 
we find Purton House described as "on the right of Purton 
Street," and as the residence of Dr. Richard Goddard. This looks 
as though the Church was considered the centre of the village, 
as only passing in that way along the Highworth Road could 
Purton House be so described. Lydiard Park is said to be 
" on the right of Hooke Street." Even in these days of finger- 
posts at all the corners, it is no easy task sometimes to find the 
way, and with only Gary's book to guide one it must have been 
puzzling indeed, for as to which is the right-hand side remains 
an open question. Possibly the traveller when taking directions 
always faced due north. 

The Manor House. 

This fine specimen of the smaller type of manor house stands 
close to the Church, and with it forms one of the most charming 
groups of buildings in North Wilts. The property belonged 
to Malmesbury Abbey before the dissolution of the religious 
houses, and the names of the last tenants of this great mitred 
house, Bennet and Joy, are preserved to us in the case brought 
by them in Star-Chamber against Sir Edmond Bridges, some of 
the details of which may be found in another chapter of this book. 

" The Mancion House " mentioned in these proceedings 
must have had a very different appearance from that of to-day, 
for it was practically rebuilt about the end of the sixteenth 
century by Lord Chandos, who then owned the property. 
He seems to have sold it a little later to Sir John Cooper, who 

1 Also at Red Lodge. * Published September ist, 1792. 

74 




THE MAN'OR HOUSE, PLJRTOX, NORTH FRONT, LOOKING SOUTH-WEST. 




THE MANOR HOUSE, I'URTON, SOUTH FRONT. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

married the heiress of Sir Anthony Ashley, of Wimborne St. 
Giles, and was the ancestor of the Earls of Shaftesbury. His 
son was Lord Chancellor to Charles II., and the "Ashley" 
of the Cabal Ministry. It is not known how many of this family 
actually resided at the Manor House, but in the eighteenth 
century the Honourable Maurice Ashley (who had dropped 
the name of Cooper) lived here with his wife, Katherine Popple, 
and they lie buried in the Church, and are commemorated by a 
tablet with a Latin inscription on the chancel wall. After 
this the house seems to have been used exclusively by tenants 
renting the land from the Shaftesbury family, and it was 
probably during this period that the house was fitted up 
internally to meet the requirements of an ordinary farmhouse. 

In 1892 Lord Shaftesbury sold all his Purton estates, and 
the house and land, then known as the Church Farm, were 
bought by Mr. Charles Beak, a native of Purton, who emigrated 
to Mexico, and there made a sufficient fortune to enable him to 
purchase the property which he knew so well in his boyhood. 
On his death, in 1900, the Manor House and land adjoining 
were sold by the representatives of the Beak family to Mrs. 
Walsh, widow of Arthur Francis Walsh, of the Hoystings, 
Canterbury. 

Though outwardly the house was altered as little as possible, 
internally the changes made were considerable. On the ground 
floor the small lobby, hall, and parlour adjoining were knocked 
into one to make a lounge hall, the north wall of the parlour 
being removed to give access to an oak staircase which took the 
place of a small deal one that rose abruptly from the front door 
to the first floor passage. A drawing-room was obtained by 
knocking into one two small rooms which had been used for 
farm purposes for over a century. In this room and in the 
hall and dining-room open fireplaces were built. The chief 
alteration outside was the addition of a small wing on the north 
side of the house and the removal of some unsightly outbuildings. 
During Mr. Beak's ownership the brick chimney stacks, which 
to judge from an old drawing must have been a conspicuous 
feature of the house, were lowered, as from want of repair he 
considered it advisable to reduce their height, some of the 
brickwork having fallen in a gale. 

The gardens surrounding the house were all laid out after 

75 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Mrs. Walsh had bought the place. Steeple Piece, the field at 
the back, was turned into pasture and a belt of trees planted all 
round. The old manorial dovecote which stood in the farmyard 
was brought into the garden, pigsties and a large cart shed were 
removed, lawns laid out, a pergola built, and a belt of trees 
planted next to the churchyard. The great barn was repaired 
and stabling made in part of it, the rick yard was quarried by 
degrees and laid out as a kitchen garden. The old winnowing 
shed projecting from the barn being unfortunately beyond 
restoration had to be demolished, but the hatch through which 
the sheaves were passed can still be seen in the wall of the barn. 

Mrs. Walsh's son, Mr. Arthur Walsh, late R.N., has been 
again serving his country during the war in connection with the 
Navy, and Miss Walsh is untiring in her labours to help on all 
good work in Purton. 

Mrs. Walsh and she are expert gardeners, and their flower 
borders and lawns are a picture of beauty. Overshadowed by 
the lofty Church towers, and with the beautiful old house and 
barn as a background, it all forms a delightful picture. 



76 



CHAPTER X 

THE OLD VICARAGE FACULTY FOR PURTON HOUSE PEW 
RESTROP HOUSE 

IN 1912, the graveyard being full, it was decided by the 
Bishop to move the existing vicarage, which, built time out of 
mind, had gradually become surrounded on three sides by 
graves, making it impossible as a residence. 

It had a pretty garden and fine shrubs, and the house, 
though very old and inconvenient to modern ideas, was dearly 
loved by our late Vicar. The writer well remembers the 
tragic grief on his face when, meeting him one morning after 
the demolition had begun, he remarked, " I have been to 
see my house" He had lived there for over thirty years, much 
beloved and respected, and it was hard to move in his later 
life to new surroundings, and a real trial to him. The Vicar 
always held that with the monastery at Purton House the 
vicarage was the hospice, and there was one room there which 
had evidently served as a chapel. A curious stone fire-place 
was discovered built up in the wall of one of the rooms, and 
also a pretty window-frame, both of which have been happily 
utilised in the new building ; the latter is placed over the 
entrance door. 

It was thought that possibly some of the figures which 
formerly had their places in the beautiful niches of the Church 
might have been buried beneath this old house, but such, alas ! 
was not the case, only a few coins and some bones were brought 
to light. 

It must be many centuries since the garden surrounding 
the old vicarage was made, and a fact that wants some explana- 
tion is the frequent discovery of skeletons as the ground is dug 
to form new graves. It seems to lend confirmation to the late 
Vicar's theory that this building was the hospice, and possibly 
the wayfarers from other parts of the country were laid to rest 
there, and not buried in the ground belonging to the parishioners. 
No skeletons were found in the newer upper portion, which did 

77 



not include the vicarage garden, but which has been taken into 
the graveyard in recent years. 

There is a curious tradition of an underground passage 
from Purton to Malmesbury, and, strange to say, two years 
ago, when Mrs. Dash's grave was being dug, an arched way 
was come upon, apparently in the supposed line ; but this was 
possibly a monastic water conduit, which was sometimes 
brought for many miles in pre-Reformation days. 

The larger houses in the old days held what were called 
" faculties " giving a right to a pew in the Church, and one such 
deed is in the possession of the owner of Purton House, granted 
in 1698 under the seal of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Sarum, 
and runs as follows : 

Robert Loggan Batchellour of Lawes and Chancellour of 
the Diocess of Sarum ; To all Christian people to whom these 
Presents shall come, sendeth greeting ; whereas request hath 
been made to us on the part and behalf of ffrancis Goddard of 
Pirton in the County of Wilts, and Diocess of Sarum Esq, that 
the seats or pew built and situate in the South Isle of the Parish 
Church of Pirton aforesaid, being six foot and half an inch in 
length, and near about three foot in breadth, adjoining to 
another seat belonging to the sd ffrancis Goddard on the East, 
and the seats of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper on the West, to 
the Church wall on the South, and opening to the North (which 
said seats for many years past hath been and now is in the 
possession of the sd ffrancis Goddard) might be confirmed to 
him, his heirs and assigns for so long as he or they occupy and 
possess the House and Estate within the sd Parish of Purton 
which he now enjoyeth, for himself or them his or their familys 
to sitt stand and kneel in, to hear Divine Service and sermons. 
Now know you, that we, proceeding herein as the Law in Church 
rules directs and appoints, by issuing forth said Proclamation 
under said seal of office bearing date the fourth day of February 
last past, riteing [sic] and admonishing all Persons haveing any 
right or interest in or to the same seats, to appear and sett forth 
and propose forth their right or interest therein in due forms 
of Law, if , any they have, which Proclamation being duly 
executed, returned and verified to us, and noe Person appearing, 
(excepting one John Eatell of the sd Parish, by his Proctor, 

78 




RESTROP HOUSE, PURTON. 
The residence uf Colonel Canning, C.M.G. 




THE MALI., KliSTKOP HOUSE, PURTON. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

who after a competent terme assigned him, did not sett forth 
or Propose any Right or interest in or to the same seats, but 
rather declined all power thereto) , Doce of S Ordinary power and 
authority, and as far as by the Ecc.ticall Laws we are enabled, 
grant, verify and confirme the sd seats or Pew, situate as afore- 
said, unto the sd ffrancis Goddard, for him, his heirs, and 
Assigns, for long as he or they occupy or possess the House and 
estate within the sd Parish of Purton which he now enjoyeth, 
for himself or them, his, or their familys to sitt, stand, and 
kneel in, to hear Divine Service and sermon without the Loss 
hindrance, interruption or Disturbance of any Person or Persons 
what soever. 

In witness whereof we have caused the seals of our Office 
to be affixed to these presents. Dated at Sarum thiss two 
and twentieth day of March in the year of Our Lord God 
One thousand six hundred ninety and eight, according to the 
Style of the Church of England. 

Ed. Thistlethwayte. Regius. 



Honi Soit. 

2 of these stamps 6d. each. 

VI pence. 



Restrop House. 

" This house is as good and pure a specimen of Elizabethan 
architecture as could be found," * built of stone, the roof of old 
grey tiles with overhanging eaves, and with the fine transomed 
windows, an especially picturesque effect is given to the front 
or south side. 

Like many other houses of the period, it was built in the form 
of the letter E, a compliment we may suppose to the Queen. 
It is said that Queen Elizabeth spent a night in it, but that is 
scarcely likely, although she probably did see the house passing 
on her way from Burderop to Cirencester. 

The name is thought to signify red, and speaks of war and 

1 Wilts Notes and Queries. 
79 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

battle in bygone times. Sad to relate, the history of the house 
seems to be buried and lost, and no information can be obtained 
as to who built it, and of those who lived and died there during 
the four hundred years of its existence. 

Ringsbury Camp, not far away, is evidence of the importance 
of the position from very early times, and there is a tradition 
of a battle having been fought near by during the Wars of 
the Parliament. 

The names of " Battle Well " and " Battle Cottages " seem 
to confirm this. Human skeletons and a stone cannon-ball 
have also been found buried near the house. One cannot think 
that the owners of Restrop dwelt unconcerned during such 
a long and eventful period, and it is to be supposed that they 
must have taken at least some small share in what was passing 
around them. 

Together with other property in the Parish of Purton, 
Restrop belonged to the Shaftesbury family. It is not known 
if any member ever resided there, but the coat of arms over 
the entrance to the porch is the Ashley-Coopers'. How strange 
it is that the first Earl of Clarendon, Lord Chancellor of England, 
and his great political opponent the Earl of Shaftesbury should 
have been near neighbours and adjoining landowners in this 
quiet Wiltshire village. After being in the possession of the 
Shaftesbury family for some two hundred and eighty years 
the house passed into other hands, and was purchased by the 
present owner, Colonel Canning, in 1912. He, with due 
regard to the character and beauty of the house, has made it 
his object to renovate and preserve the building, and to 
restore it as much as possible to its original state. 

Partitions put up in recent times have been removed, to 
bring the hall to its former dimensions. A fine stone fire-place 
has been uncovered, providing a hearth admirably fitted for 
a fire of logs. The stone fire-places are a feature of the house, 
as are the oak stairs. 

In the drawing-room there is a good specimen of a Jacobean 
fire-place. A small dais at one end and a " powder room," with 
newly-found oak panelling, give an old-world effect, and an 
endeavour in the style of furnishing has been made to bring all 
into harmony. 

Lieut.-Col. Canning is a Wiltshireman by birth, and a 

80 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

collateral relation of the family of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. 
On the outbreak of war he rejoined the Army and commanded 
a battalion in Gallipoli, including the far-famed evacuation, 
and afterwards in the Arabian Desert. In recognition of these 
services he received from His Majesty the well-earned decoration 
of The Most Distinguished order of St. Michael and St. George. 
He is at present serving in Ireland. 



81 



CHAPTER XI 

WATKINS* CORNER PRESENT-DAY RESIDENTS PURTON STOKE 
" CURLY TOM " 

ON the road to Purton Stoke is a sharp turn, almost describing 
a crook, and a gruesome tale is told of the spot. 

One Watkins was accused of having committed a murder, 
and at this corner a gallows 1 was erected (some say a tree 
was used) and in full view of the public the last sad reparation 
was exacted. Some time afterwards, the story goes, the father 
of Watkins confessed that he, and not his son, was the guilty 
person. A fearful thunderstorm raged after the hanging 
took place, as though Heaven itself were raising a protest, 
and folks say that the hangman's horse, taking fright on the 
way home, upset the trap, breaking his master's neck. 

A tale is also told of a sudden fire some years later, which 
reduced to ashes the very gallows used and the shed wherein 
it stood. 

Of course, the corner was said to be haunted, and further 
tragedy followed. One dark night some friends who had been 
drinking were talking of Watkins, and one offered to bet another 
that he would not dare to creep along the ditch and say, " Well, 
Watkins, how are you feeling ? " 

The bet was accepted, and unknown to him who took it up 
another crept to the farther end awaiting his advent. When 
the question was duly asked, the reply came, " Very cold and 
miserable," and this was so terrifying, and also so unexpected, 
that the unlucky sportsman, having a weak heart, collapsed 
and died of fright. 

These public hangings were considered a sight not to be 
missed if it was possible to get there. North Wiltshire folk loved 
to attend the Devizes Hang Fair as recently as the early part of 
the nineteenth century. The late Rev. C. W. Bradford, 2 who 
took his B. A. Degree at Oxford in 1852, used to tell his son-in-law 

1 A Staley of Purton erected the gallows. 
1 Vicar of Clyffe Pypard, 1863-1883. 

82 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

how he went up the tower of St. Peter-le-Bailey Church at 
Oxford to get a good view oi a hanging, and the writer's father 
used to relate how, when driving on his father's (Sir James 
Stronge) coach, which was called " the '74," he saw the dead 
body of a man hanging on a gibbet at Shrewsbury, who had been 
executed for highway robbery. This was in the year 1836. 

Miss Prower remembers that her grandfather, Canon Prower, 
as Vicar, was obliged to attend Watkins' execution, and to read 
the last solemn service over the unfortunate condemned man. 
The book which he used on this occasion was a small Prayer 
Book, now at Sissells, and on the fly-leaf is the following 
inscription : 

" Robert Watkins of the Burrough of Wootton Bassett read 
from this book the 108 Psalm, when on the Scaffold for the 
murder of Stephen Rodway of Cricklade Friday July 30th. 
1819. 

" JOHN MERVIN PROWER." 

The Prayer Book was published in London in the year 
1787, and an asterisk on the exhortation which begins " Dearly 
beloved " points to a note below as follows : 

" This exhortation is fraught with preparatory instruction 
to worship Jehovah in spirit and in truth." 

It is strange to hold the little volume in one's|hand open 
at the io8th Psalm, and to think of Watkins' feelings as he read, 
" Awake, thou lute, and harp : I myself will awake right early " 
with the noose already round his neck ! In the thirteenth verse 
there was more suitable expression to his desperate situation, 
" O help us against the enemy : for vain is the help of man." 

Stranger still to relate, Canon Prower allowed his seven- 
year-old son, afterwards Major Prower, to be brought as a 
spectator, and even held up by the gardener " to get a better 
view ! " 

All praise to those who put a stop to such spectacles in 
the ensuing years, for surely such sights must have only 
pandered to an unhealthy taste for horrors, though doubtless 
well meant as ar deterrent to evildoers. 

Old Mr. Lewis says he remembers Canon Prower's four- 
wheeled shaj' in which he used to drive himself about when Lewis 

83 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

was a little boy. It had a seat facing the driver and one behind, 
and on the front seat he always had three baskets, which the 
children knew well, for one contained apples, one sweets, 
and one coppers, which the old gentleman used to throw to 
the children to scramble for, amidst shouts of laughter from him- 
self and them. " Oh, we all knew his carriage," Lewis said, 
chuckling to himself at the recollection of those far-off days. 

Mr. Lewis' mother, who was a Daniels, often told her sons 
of the wonderful assemblage on the day John Watkins was 
hanged. The condemned man was brought past Purton House 
and round by the churchyard to the place of execution, while 
the tenor bell tolled its solemn chime for the dread ceremony 
about to take place. She said that the body was taken when 
life was extinct to where Mr. Greenaway's farm now is, and a 
post-mortem was performed, and then it was returned to be 
buried at Watkins' Corner. The crowds that gathered passed 
all records, and his clothes seem to have been greedily seized 
upon as souvenirs, one man even boasting that he had worn his 
boots, while an old woman used to show his braces carefully 
rolled in paper ! 

Mr. Pedley remembers that his old gardener, Wilton by name, 
used to boast that he had walked all the way from Bibury and 
back to see poor Watkins hanged, and he always spoke of the 
terrible thunderstorm which raged that day. 

This Wilton's brothers, three of them, all fought and fell 
in the Peninsular War, which fact forms an interesting link with 
the past. 

Passing on, we arrive at Purton Stoke, with its pretty 
picturesque cottages dotted about irregularly, and on the 
right-hand side there stands the comfortable reading room, 
painted a cheerful green and white, which was erected some 
eight years ago by the exertions of Mrs. Warrender, assisted 
by contributions from various friends. It is an inestimable 
boon to the villagers on winter evenings, and on Sundays is 
used for the Church services. 

Turning to the left, we find a charming old-world spot, 
Stoke House, part of it built, it is said, in the time of Charles II., 
surrounded by rose gardens in summer, and brilliant in spring 
time with daffodils and other bulbs. This is the residence 
of Miss Warrender. Miss Alice Warrender is the second daughter 

84 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

of the late Sir George Warrender, 6th Baronet, and sister of 
the late well-known Admiral of the same name. The latter's 
widow is a sister of the present Earl of Shaftesbury. 

Debrett tells us that this family is of French extraction, 
formerly de Warende, which settled in Scotland temp. James V. 
Miss Warrender was for several years Vicar's Churchwarden 
to Purton Parish, and takes a deep interest in all that tends to 
the welfare of the neighbourhood. In peace time she was a 
keen follower of the V.W.H. Hounds. 



The Salts Hole. 
Quoting from The Leisure Hour in 1861, we find as follows : 

" A valuable mineral water has been discovered near Purton, 
and the analysis shows that this water was rich beyond all 
precedent in sulphates, carbonates, clorides, phosphates, iodides, 
and bromine, with sulphuretted hydrogen, and a very large 
amount of free carbonic acid gases, and that a similar water is 
unknown in England or the Continent. 

" The spa is marked by a small octagonal building in a field, 
time out of mind it has been called the Salts Hole. The poor all 
resort to it and value it highly, but the local gentry and doctors 
placed no value upon it. Mr. S. C. Sadler, who had owned the 
spot for fifteen years, thought it a nuisance, as it flooded the 
lane in the winter months. At this the poor bitterly exclaimed, 
" You are taking our physic from us, whatever shall we do when 
it is gone ? You may say it is no use, but we know it is, and our 
fathers before us." 

The story goes on to tell how their pleading was disregarded, 
and the place was drained, and cartloads of soil thrown on the 
spot ; but the spring remained unvanquished, and was sure 
to reappear. Mr. Sadler then railed it round and put a lock 
on the gate. But the poor neighbours were not to be done out 
of their physic, which " always made them well," and used to 
break the lock and take it as before. 

" At last the owner had a serious illness, and remembering 
the persistent faith of the poor in the despised spring, he 

85 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

determined to try it himself, and found immediate benefit. 
Two most eminent chemists were then asked to make an 
analysis of the water. They found it to contain the two finest 
salts, and specially rich in phosphate of lime, which being the 
basis of bone, is specially good for sick children. Also they found 
that it had none of the irritant properties of most other English 
waters, and there is no English spring resembling it. When 
the well was rilled in and destroyed the exact locality for a time 
was doubtful, but a white surface on a slight sinking of the 
earth pointed to a likely spot, a hole was made, and the 
water came bubbling up, to the great joy of the neighbourhood. 
This occurred in 1859. A pump and pump-room were then 
scientifically erected" (and still remain). 

" Many are the cures attributed to the waters, though a 
neighbouring doctor jeeringly remarked, ' One can readily 
compound the ingredients, we administer the same every day.' " 
41 But," the account continues, " the ingredients may indeed be 
known, but not the secret of their combination. The water 
when bottled is so full of gas, an empty space must be left, or 
the neck would burst, when corked under pressure it effervesces. 
When exposed to the air it is in a state of ferment owing to 
the explosion of the gas, and it has a milky appearance." 
In a paper by Mr. S. C. Sadler, M.R.C.S., we read : 
" By the testimony of some old people now living in the 
parish, it is certain that this mineral well was known and much 
resorted to at a very remote period. Thus : 

"'Isaac Beasley, now (1860) in the 93rd year of his age, and 
possessing extraordinary power of memory, and great physical 
strength for his years, states that all his life he had been in the 
habit, when out of health, of drinking this water, and it was 
certain to put him right, and that his father took this water 
as physic, and a vast number of folks in his young days took 
this water for all manner of diseases, and it mostly cured them. 
He heard his father say that often a great man came down 
from Oxford, with a coach and four horses, to get some water 
from the Salts Hole.' " 

These facts would date some two hundred years back from 
the present day. 

The waters are to this day drunk by the country-folk as a 

86 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

cure for many ailments, a cart full of bottles dispensing to the 
customers who desire it. 

Turning again sharply to the left brings us to Pond's Farm, 
a very quaint and interesting old house, famous for having been 
the residence of Bathes and Maskelynes in days gone by, and 
called " The Mansion House at Stoke " in ancient deeds. Here 
it was that Nevil Maskelyne lived, the great astronomer whose 
mind was able to defy space and distance, weigh the stars, 
and foretell the courses of the planets. It is now the residence 
of Mr. and Mrs. Ponting, whose excellent cheeses are celebrated 
far beyond Purton. 

But we must retrace our steps, and climb the long Purton 
Hill, passing the old toll-gate on the right and Purton Court 
at the corner, now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Bickford. 

Passing the College Farm brings us to " The Cedars," the 
residence of Mr. and Mrs. John Fox. Everyone was glad to 
welcome them back from Australia in the autumn of 1916, 
after an absence of three years. He is the owner of extensive 
cattle ranches in Queensland, and pays them periodical visits. 
He served in the South African War with the Australian 1 
contingent, and is a Hampshire man by birth ; his elder brother 
is the owner of Adbury Park, near Newbury. Mrs. Fox is 
descended from the old Puritan family of Winthrop. Her 
ancestor was the famous John Winthrop, who, when the question 
of emigration " to a land in the West where religion and liberty 
could find a safe and lasting home " * arose, said : " I shall 
call that my country where I may most glorify God, and enjoy 
the presence of my dearest friends." The emigrants during 
this time were many of them men of large landed estates, 
shrewd London lawyers, or young scholars from Oxford. 

" Farewell, dear England ! ' ' was their cry as the ships bore 
them from these shores to the unknown country across the wide 
ocean. 

" Our hearts," wrote John Winthrop 's followers to those 
left behind, " shall be fountains of tears for your everlasting 
welfare, when we shall be in our poor cottages in the wilderness." 

Many died miserably of cold and discomfort in the first 
terrible winter. A letter from Winthrop runs thus : " I thank 

1 In the Queensland Mounted Infantry. 
2 Green's History oj the English People, p. 493. 

87 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

God I like so well to be here, as I do not repent my coming. 
I would not have altered my course, though I had foreseen all 
these afflictions, I never had more content of mind." 

Three thousand Puritans arrived there from England in 
a single year. Laud's persecutions led to their abolishing 
Episcopacy, and abandoning the use of the Book of Common 
Prayer. 

Green tells us that " between the sailing of Winthrop's 
expedition and the assembly of the Long Parliament, that is ten 
or eleven years, two hundred emigrant ships had crossed the 
Atlantic an,d twenty thousand Englishmen had found refuge 
in the West." 

But a day of retribution was coming, and in 1644 " King 
Pym's" ride over England on the eve of the elections for the 
Long Parliament brought new life to England, and stopped the 
tide of emigration, for as Winthrop wrote," The change made all 
men to stay in England in expectation of a new world." 

A very charming collection of family letters is still preserved, 
telling of all the difficulties and dangers, fateful decisions, 
and cruel partings, which the Winthrop family endured for 
conscience' sake. 

Passing on, we come to a picturesque house in the Georgian 
style, with a high roof and grey stone slates. This is " The 
Close," the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John Brown. Mrs. Brown's 
father, the Rev. Walter Mitchell, was a former Vicar of Purton, 
and Mr. Brown's maternal ancestors (the Bathe family) have for 
many generations been well known in the district. 

Two sons are now lords of the Manor of Purton Keynes, 
and a third is fighting in Egypt. 

All Purton knows what a good friend Miss May Brown is, 
and her sister, Miss Lily Brown, has for several years now been 
nursing wounded soldiers at Cheltenham. Another daughter, 
Mrs. Plummer, lives at Wroughton. 

Miss Ruck, though rarely seen, still remembers her old 
friends, and lends a kindly hand to those in distress. 

Miss Maud Prower lives at Sissells, a little farther on, 
a quaint and pretty old house, with a glorious view on the north 
side extending far away, to the Cotswold Hills. 

The name Sissells doubtless comes from a former owner, 
one Joan Sistell, widow, who in 1640 held a close and pasture 

88 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

in Purton, 1 and in the later Inquisition we find that " William 
Digges held in Purton . . . two grounds, called Sissells 
hills, and forty acres of arable lying in Battlefeeld, alias 
Bettlefeeld." 

Mr. and Mrs. Pedley are well known in the neighbourhood, 
having moved here from Latton some years ago. 

Mrs. Sayer lives at Longcroft. Her husband, the late 
Captain Sayer, took a leading part in Purton village in bygone 
days. 

Mrs. Charlton 2 and her daughters live at " Hillside," and are 
interested in all social work. 

Mrs. and the Misses Redman, at Churchfield Lodge, are 
interested in nursing and Foreign Missions. 

Red House with its charming grounds is the home of Miss 
Russell. She has been for two years the Commandant of a 
Convalescent Home for wounded soldiers at Reading, having 
also helped to run a canteen there. 

The principal landowners in Purton are James Henry 
Sadler, D.L., Mr. C. D. Hey cock and Mrs. Story -Maskelyne. 

The population in 1911 was 2,645 in the ecclesiastical 
parish. 

There is a Congregational Chapel, built in 1829, with 120 
sittings, and there are also Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist 
Chapels. 

Mrs. Plummer, who lives in the Lower Square, used during 
her husband's lifetime to live at the Manor House. One of her 
sons is now serving his country in her hour of need. 

Mr. A. H. Dunn is the licensed lay reader of the parish, 
and he officiates every Sunday in Braydon Chapel of Ease. 
He is a gifted preacher, and in peace time held a weekly 
Bible Class for men at the Institute, which was largely 
attended. 

The Children's Home was built in 1914 by the Guardians 
in the form of two labourers' cottages, so that if necessary in 
later years the building could be easily divided, and used to 
accommodate two families. At present (1917) sixteen children 
are being trained there to become useful citizens. 

i Wilts Inq. P.M., ch. i., p. 302. 
? A daughter of Admiral Dent, by his wife, the Lady Selina Hastings. 

89 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

There is a saying that " you can live as long as you like 
in Purton," on account of its excellent reputation for health 
and freedom from infectious complaints. There does seem to 
be something in it, as great ages are attained, accompanied by 
wonderful health and strength. Our late organist, Mrs. Smith, 
who recently retired, had occupied her post for fifty years, 
and was presented on her retirement with a purse of sovereigns 
by the parishioners. 

A well-known figure in Purton till recently was " Curly Tom " 
(see p. 59). He used to say that his father and mother had 
brought him to London from Norfolk as a baby. Anyhow, 
he seems to have drifted down to Wiltshire, and for many years 
had a regular beat as a pedlar, tramping round to dispose of 
his wares to the willing country-folk. 

He used to say that " people in his class " learned to read 
and write in his young days, as they found it useful to their 
customers, who were unable to do so. He was taught by having 
sand spread on the top of a wooden box, and when smooth 
the boy was given a skewer, and with it learned to form and 
read letters on the sand. (This might prove a valuable 
suggestion to the Education Authorities if the present scarcit}' 
of paper should become acute.) 

One felt he was one who might have made a better thing 
of life had the chance come his way, as both in appearance and 
manner he was superior to what one expects from such circum 
stances. For many a year he tramped the country round, but at 
last the years began to weigh upon him, for there is no cheating 
old Time after all, and he used to come to the Workhouse 
for the winter months, and when the days got longer, and 
the trees put on their spring attire, " Curly Tom " would make 
his appearance as usual before the Guardians, saying, " Good 
morning, Gentlemen, I want to ask your help." Five shillings 
was accordingly always given to him, and with this he sallied 
forth to buy his stock-in-trade of pins, needles, bootlaces, etc. ; 
and so well did he understand the wants of his district, that 
by his trading he was able to entirely support himself, until 
the shortening days and chilly nights warned him back to his 
winter quarters in the Workhouse. 

Born nine years before Waterloo, and at the age of 104 only 
a little deaf, he was often to be seen sauntering along enjoying 

go 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

his pipe, which his friends saw to it should not want for tobacco, 
and no one enjoyed a cup of tea more than he did, given with 
a friendly word of greeting. " That is tea ! " he used to say 
with great appreciation. The writer saw him at the point 
of death, and his extraordinarily aged appearance then showed 
that Time had not forgotten him, although his life had reached 
so far beyond man's allotted span. 



CHAPTER XII 

PARISH LAWS, 1733 SEVERE PENALTIES 

IN a quaint old volume called Parish Laws, published in 
the year 1733, there are some curious accounts of the duties of 
Churchwardens, as " besides the care of the repairs of the Church 
seats, Churchwardens are to see that all the parishioners duly 
resort to their Parish Church, and there continue during the time 
of Divine Service, to permit no Person to cover his head in 
the Church, except he have some infirmity, and then with a 
cap ; not to permit any to stand idle, walk, talk, or make any 
noise in the Church, or to contend about places, and to chastise 
disorderly boys, etc., also to keep excommunicated out of the 
Church, and to allow no interludes, plays, feasts, Church Ales, 
Musters, markets, temporal Courts or Leets, Lay Juries, or any 
other profane usage to be permitted or allowed therein, also on 
Sacrament days : to observe they that absent themselves from 
it, and present them for the same at the next Visitation. Also 
to see that all behave themselves orderly, soberly and reverently ; 
kneeling at the prayers, standing at the Belief, bowing at the 
name of Jesus, sitting or standing quietly and attentively at 
the reading of the Scriptures." 

One shilling was the fine imposed by the Justices for each 
of the above offences, and also for, " ist, Absenting from Church, 
2nd, Not abiding there till service and sermon were ended, 
3rd, For not behaving orderly and soberly while there." Five 
shillings was the fine for doing " any worldly work or business 
on Sunday," but for trading or travelling on the Lord's Day the 
fine was twenty shillings. If any butcher killed on Sunday 
six shillings and sixpence was the forfeit, and for meeting at 
bull-baitings, bear-baitings, interludes or Common Plays three 
shillings and fourpence was the fine exacted. The money 
derived from these sums to be applied to the relief of the poor ; 
failing ability to pay, the offenders were to be put in the stocks. 
Churchwardens also had as part of their duties to visit frequently 
on Sunday ale-houses, and if they found any tippling to make 

92 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

them pay three shillings and fourpence and the master of the 
house ten shillings, also five shillings for using trade, and if in 
Church hours, another shilling each all round ; and then all 
was not forgiven, for they were to be presented by the Church- 
wardens at the next Visitation. Their powers also allowed the 
Churchwardens " to present the Minister if he was not constantly 
resident for doing his duty, or for leading a disorderly or 
irregular life." However, if the parson was a proper man, he 
was well protected, as the offence of disturbing or abusing 
him while doing his duty was a serious matter. 10 for 
the first offence, 20 for the second, and for the third the 
offender should forfeit all his goods and chattels and be 
imprisoned for life. No cursing or swearing was allowed, one 
shilling or two shillings was the fine, and if under sixteen to 
be whipped. 

The fine for not coming to Church was 20, and if continued 
for a year 20 for every month and two parts in three of his 
or her estate, and to produce two sureties in 200 for future good 
behaviour. Anyone who "is assaulted or beaten in Church, 
is not to give back blows in his own defence, as he may do in 
another place." For striking or laying hands on anyone in the 
churchyard excommunication was imposed, " but if with a 
weapon, or if only' drawn for that purpose, to lose one of his 
ears." The poor are described as of two classes : ist, those who 
are willing to work but are not able ; 2nd, those who are able 
to work but are not willing. These latter could be sent by two 
justices to the House of Correction. Churchwardens and 
overseers could also be consigned to this terrible place for 
"refusing to account, there to remain till they will." Boy 
paupers were apprenticed till the age of twenty-four and girls 
till twenty-one or marriage ; no apprentice might be older 
than fifteen " when first bound." Rogues and idle people 
were to be set to work, and " moderately whipped " or have 
"fetters and gives" put on them. Persons receiving parish 
relief were obliged to wear a badge on their right shoulder sleeve, 
on refusal may be sent to the House of Correction for twenty- 
one days at most, to be whipped and kept to hard labour ; 
formerly they were burned on the left shoulder. Boys could 
be apprenticed to sea service being ten years old and upwards 
if likely to be a charge to the parish, who begged alms, or whose 

93 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

parents were chargeable, the apprenticeship to continue till 
twenty-one years was reached. 

The parish laws for labourers then were that " those that 
work by day or week shall continue at work betwixt the middle 
of March and the middle of September from 5 in the morning 
till between 7 and 8 at night, except 2 hours for breakfast, 
dinner and drinking, and an hour for sleeping," all the rest of 
the year from twilight to twilight, on pain to have " one penny 
defalked out of their wages for every houi's absence." All 
artificers " had to work in haytime and harvest on pain of 2 days 
and i night in the stocks, or 403. forfeit." 

Beggars and vagabonds got a short shrift. " Anyone found 
wandering, begging and misordeiing himself ... be ordered 
to be openly whipped, until his or her body be bloody, or be 
sent to the House of Correction, and be kept at hard labor at 
the discretion of the justices." Those thought to be specially 
dangerous got even worse treatment, for they " shall cause him 
to be whipped three market days successively." No person 
likely to live by begging could be brought into England by a 
master of a ship from Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, 
Scilly. 5 was the fine for bringing such a one, the intruder 
was to be openly whipped and sent back to where he came 
from. We have all heard of hue and cry, but one hardly realises 
that not two hundred years ago a constable could call on 
parishioners, after describing a felon, to assist in the pursuit, 
and so on from constable to constable, town to town, and 
county to county. Pursuers had the right to search suspected 
houses and persons, and carry the latter to the justices to be 
examined. Inhabitants of any hundred where hue and cry was 
made and neglecting to pursue " shall answer of moiety of the 
Damages " as a penalty, and also be " grievously fined and 
imprisoned." 



94 



CHAPTER XIII 

LYDIARD MANOR HOUSE MR. MACKNIGHT A GHOST STORY 
THE SMOCK-FROCK "GRUBBING THE MOOTS " 

ONE mile due south of Purton lies the picturesque village of 
Lydiard Millicent. 

Behind the beautiful church are the ruins of Lydiard Manor, 
overgrown with ivy and the home of bats and owls. 

This house has an interesting history, and was built by one 
Robert Turgis in the year 1459. For four hundred long years 
it stood there defying time and weather, until the fatal night 
came when fire destroyed in a few hours its roof, floors, etc., 
leaving the walls standing as a melancholy reminder of 
the past centuries, when it was a bright and beautiful 
dwelling. 

The Webbes had bought the property in 1576 from Robert 
Turgis' " successors." William Webbe was a Catholic, and was 
fined for harbouring recusant priests. 

The description given by Mr. MacKnight of the house tells 
us that the chapel was in the roof, over the drawing-room. 
Behind the altar was a panelled door, which opened into two 
other rooms without windows ; and behind the panelled door 
was a chimney-stack, behind which two men could be easily 
concealed. From the second room was a door into the other 
wing of the house, the exit being through a panel like a 
door of a raised cupboard, and by this it was possible to 
go through other rooms to a staircase leading to the back of 
the house. 

It would seem that when the searching party surrounded 
the house the priests were thus concealed, and made their way 
out into the wood, where in a small clearing the foundations 
of two small cottages have been discovered, which would afford 
them shelter. They were not taken, but it is believed that 
information was subsequently extorted which led to the 
conviction for harbouring these plotters against the Government. 

95 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

The fine appears to have crippled the estate, which was 
afterwards mortgaged, and in 1714 Sir John Askew, the 
mortgagee, foreclosed and entered into possession. He built 
the stabling and the barn, and laid out the garden on an 
extensive scale ; but he is said to have speculated in the South 
Sea Bubble scheme, and to have been unable to complete his 
designs, of which more anon. 

The Rev. William MacKnight was born in the year 1816. 
A member of an ancient Scottish family, he began his life in 
Wiltshire as tutor to the sons of the Earl of Suffolk at Charlton 
Park. 

From thence he moved to Purton, and with five pupils lived 
there for a couple of years, before taking up his residence at 
Lydiard Millicent. 

While living at Purton, he wrote to his fiancee, Miss Davis : 
" By the by, this is a very appetizing place. My housekeeper 
says, ' Dear, dear, how much they (the pupils) do eat, sir, they 
must be ill.' She has actually persuaded one of them to take 
medicine for fear" 

Mr. MacKnight loved his occupation, and threw his whole 
heart into the work of training his pupils for the stern battle 
of life. He writes : " I am fairly one of them, x not a vestige 
of their tutor left." One good rule he made : " I never if I 
can help it correct before people, it is most unwise to do so." 
Sometimes he had very unpromising material to work upon, 
for he writes of one as " the veriest dolt and lump I ever saw, 
. . . cannot find his place in the Greek Testament, does not 
know whether his father was ever at College, does not know 
anything, in short . . . what am I to do with such an 
article ? His family want him to go to College and be a lawyer ! 
I think I must try to be delivered from him if I can . . . 

G is just the reverse, I call him ' Daydawn ' and the 

other ' Midnight.' " 

It was in December, 1851, that Mr. MacKnight left Purton 
for Lydiard Manor, which he was to transform into a bright 
and beautiful home. He married Miss Davis in the same year 
at Bibury, and for many years lived a happy life with his pupils 
in his glorious garden. As already mentioned, this famous 

1 Amongst his pupils were General Sir Redvers Buller, Lord Frederick 
Leveson-Gower, Mr. J. H. Sadler, etc. 

96 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

garden had been laid out in Queen Anne's day, by Sir John 
Askew, with yew hedges, grass walks and flower beds in a 
mathematical scheme, using the multiple of five, the flower 
beds five feet from the yew hedges, and the beds themselves 
five feet wide. 

Of course there is a ghost, and Madam Blunt is said still 
to " walk " in the old garden. Six bundles of trees were brought 
from Nova Scotia in 1780 by one Captain Welch, of the Royal 
Welch Fusiliers, and beneath the shade of this fine timber the 
pupils of Mr. MacKnight worked and played. 1 

He has left an account of a sudden and very terrible storm 
of wind which took place on October 3ist, 1873. He describes 
how " the tall spruces lashed about as though by some terrific 
force made into playthings," and how " one elm after another 
crashed to earth, one of which in falling tore out the end of the 
gate-lodge." How " the storm apparently struck the ground, 
which was torn up as though by a steam plough." 

After the storm came a water-spout, which washed up to 
its foundation the metal on the Purton Road. But the 
strangest thing of all was that it all took place on October $ist, 
and that Madam Blunt 's tree was spared amidst the general 
havoc. 

This is the ghost story. Madam Blunt was born Miss 
Askew, and from an old letter dated Wootton Bassett, November 
Qth, 1764, we learn that she was engaged to a young clergyman, 
and everything was arranged by her parents for her marriage. 
She, however, was in the habit of trying her blandishments 
on others besides her fiance, and this so preyed on the young 
man's mind that it affected his brain. One night 2 there was a 
dinner party, and one of her favoured swains was present, as 
well as the unfortunate lover. No one knew exactly what 
occurred, but later in the evening, in the dark, the three met, 
there was a struggle, and the clergyman, who it is thought had 
dined not wisely but too well, drew a pistol and shot himself, 
although the guilty pair did all they could to prevent him. 
In the old rectory the marks of blood and brains could be seen 
on the wall till it was pulled down in 1857. 

Miss Askew married Colonel Blunt in 1768, and seven years 

1 Recollections and Letters of Rev. W. MacKnight, by E. L. Thomson. 
* October 3ist. 

97 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

after his death, on inheriting the Manor, went to live there 
(in 1811). She saw few or no neighbours, but the gipsies knew 
her weU, and were always welcomed to sing and dance before 
the house. She enclosed a piece of the garden called " The 
Slopes," keeping the key herself, and only allowing the gardener 
to enter in her company. For hours daily, until her death in 
1822, she would walk up and down in this garden quite alone, 
and people say that to this day she still " walks," and that on 
the 3ist of October, when night falls, she may be seen there 
seated under Madam Blunt's tree. 

People at Lydiard tell that when the will was opened it 
was found that Madam Blunt had given directions that her 
coffin was to be carried seven times round this special tree, 
which folks say had been given to her in a flower-pot years 
ago by a well-loved swain, and her directions were accordingly 
carried out seven times the solemn procession made the circle 
of the tree before laying her remains to rest in the old churchyard 
adjoining. But in the will there was more than this simple 
order. 

History says that one evening a party of friends were 
gathered together at the Sun Inn at Lydiard, and Madam 
Blunt's health not being very good at the time, the question 
arose, " If anything happens to the old lady, who will have 
the Manor ? " One Mrs. Kibble white, just in for her husband's 
pint of beer, volunteered the surprising information : " You 11 
see, our Jim will be lord of the Manor when the old lady dies." 
Her remark was received with incredulity and disdain, and 
Richard Parsons, Madam Blunt's servant, said, " Your Jim 
never likely as likely as me." " You '11 see," repeated Mrs. 
Kibblewhite, " I know a thing or two the Manor 's sold and 
bought already good night." Home went the good lady and 
told her husband what had occurred. " There now, you 'ave 
done it, you 'ave spoiled it all, and our Jim will never be lord 
of the Manor." 1 And he never was, for Richard Parsons told 
Madam Blunt the whole story. (It seemed that her son, Sir 
Charles Blunt, had sold his succession to James Kibblewhite 
for a sum of money. This happened in June, 1817.) Madam 
Blunt thereupon sent for her agent, Mr. Bewley, collected all 
the papers and documents, which were packed into two saddle- 

1 From Lydiard Manor, by Rev. W. MacKnight. 
98 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

bags, and off she rode on a pillion behind him to catch the 
nearest London coach. This old lady of seventy-one years 
succeeded in her errand, and the story went " that Lydiard 
was bought and sold three times in one day in the streets of 
London." Thus was it explained : " On July ist and 2nd, 1817, 
there was a lease and release by Mary Blunt to Samuel Waller 
in trust for her and her heirs. July 3rd and 4th, 1817, a lease 
and release by Samuel Waller to Mary Blunt and her heirs 
that is to whom she should choose, not Sir Charles Blunt." 1 
And so it fell out that "our Jim" was never "lord of the 
Manor." He tried to claim it with a lawsuit, but lost that and 
probably any other fortune he was possessed of. 

Anyhow, there was no luck with the place as far as Madam 
Blunt's heirs were concerned, and for nine years it stood empty 
and unoccupied. 

In 1841 it was bought by Mr. Streeten, and then sold to 
Mr. Story-Maskelyne in 1872. It is now again derelict, and 
owing to a curious will no one can rebuild the house 2 and 
occupy the old-world garden, though many have wished 
to do so, and to restore it to its ancient beauty and 
charm. 

Writing of the smock-frock in 1852, Mr. MacKnight says : 
" The parishioners still came to Church in their white smock- 
frocks, which were here and there varied with a blue one, with 
its pattern in white thread conspicuous on the breast." There 
was a great draught in the Church, owing to leaks in the old 
oak roof, and he adds : " The wind swept in gusts over us," 
and one day, he writes, " a good many smocks being present, 
one by one, for his protection, drew out his red pocket- 
handkerchief and threw it over his head. Then I had a not 
unpleasant variety of colour before me, the white, blue and red. 
It was a most picturesque group of a generation that is rapidly 
passing away, and soon to be seen no more. My poor neigh- 
bour," he adds, " Mrs. Ody, who earned her living by adorning 
the smock-frock with her handiwork, complained hi 1860 
that where she once made a score she did not now make 
one." 

1 Lydiard Manor, by Rev. W. MacKnight. 
* It was completely gutted by fire some years ago. 

99 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

"Grubbing the moots," in the old Wiltshire dialect, is still 
practised in these parts when work is slack during the winter ; 
and very cleverly are the roots of fallen trees chipped out 
by practised hands, a benefit to the owner, who wishes to be 
rid of the*^msightly "moot," and a help in firing to one in 
need of it. 



100 



CHAPTER XIV 

RED LODGE MR. SADLER'S RECOLLECTIONS OLD COINS 

" YOU COME FROM PURTON " 

RED LODGE, the residence of Mr. John Edward Ward, is situated 
in the north-west portion of Purton, now separated off into 
the civil parish of Braydon. This district was not within the 
ancient bounds of Braden Forest as given in the Perambulation 
of 28 Ed. III., although by the encroachments of the early 
Norman kings it had been brought within its limits. 

It was no doubt covered with woods, and in a later 
Perambulation is described as "late ye woods of Henry de 
Lacey Erie of Lincolne." 

From the Inquisition P.M. of this nobleman, dated 4 Ed. II., 
it appears that he held them as part of his Manor of Aldebourne, 
which came to him as the inheritance of his wife, Margaret, and 
" that it belongs to the Earldom of Sarum," which he also held. 
His sole daughter, Alice, though thrice married, left no issue, 
and on her death the vast estates which she inherited from 
her father passed to the brother of her first husband, Henry, 
Earl of Lancaster. Thus this property fell into the hands of 
the Crown. When early in the reign of Charles I. Braden Forest 
was disafforested the land claimed by the Crown as royal 
demesne and Duchy of Lancaster estates was let on lease to 
Philip Jacobson, the King's Jeweller, and Edward Sewster, 
with rights to grub up the woods, convert the land to tillage, 
to erect iron works, etc. 

At first there were serious disturbances, but no doubt in 
time things settled down. Later the Crown divided its estates 
into three portions and leased them for a number of years : 
firstly, to James Duart, the principal residence being called 
Slyfield Lodge, within the forest ; the second portion to Philip 
Jacobson, the principal residence being Statton Lodge, without 

101 



the forest ; and the third being the Great Lodge to Roger Nott, 
the principal residence within the Forest. 

From this it appears that Hatton Lodge was the name of the 
principal residence on the Crown property held under the Duchy 
of Lancaster. 

The Jacobson family lost their interest in it early in the 
eighteenth century, and in 1729 the Nott family obtained a 
lease of it, but their residence, in an old map of 1733 described 
as Nott's House, was the Great Lodge, now called Ravens Hurst 
House Lodge. In the beginning of the nineteenth century the 
Crown disposed of all its Braydon property, and a farm called 
the Duchy Ragg, in Cricklade St. Sampson, was sold to the 
Earl of Clarendon, from whom it passed later to Mr. Joseph 
Neeld. In Andrews' and Drury's map of 1773 both the White 
Lodge and Red Lodge are marked in this district, and the name 
Hattori Lodge has disappeared ; but there can be little doubt 
that this is the ancient name of the present Red Lodge. 

As already mentioned, the large Red Lodge estate (3,800 
acres) was purchased by Joseph Neeld in 1829, not all at once, 
but bit by bit, and was mostly corn-growing land. After 
1829 the Neelds gradually laid it down in grass, and planted 
the woods between 1830-40, which are extensive. A coach 
road was made, which leads us to suppose that the building 
of a mansion was contemplated. 

Sir Algernon Neeld lived for a short time at Red Lodge, 
but it was not till 1902, when Mr. Ward acquired the property, 
that the old Ranger's house was altered and considerably 
added to. 

The architects were the late Mr. Seddon, of Westminster, 
and Mr. Jones, of Gloucester. The gardens, which are celebrated 
in the neighbourhood, were designed by Mr. White, of Victoria 
Street, Westminster. 

Long, closely-shaven grass walks with herbaceous borders, 
and flanked with rambler roses gracefully trained on posts, 
meet the eye on all sides, and there is a beautiful rock garden 
with many treasures carefully tended therein. In springtime 
the daffodils are a glory, once seen not easily forgotten, 
stretching in a blaze of yellow right across the park to the woods 
beyond. Both Mr. and Mrs. Ward are keen gardeners, and 
Captain Harold Ward has inherited his father's taste, being 

102 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

an enthusiast on rock work. He is now in France serving as 
Adjutant to the Wiltshire Yeomanry. 1 He is a member of 
the Inner Temple and a practising barrister, and married 
Miss Grice-Hutchinson in 1913. 

Mr. Ward is the son of Mr. John Ward, of Whittington, 
Salop, who was partly instrumental in constructing most of 
the Welsh railways. 

Until Mr. Ward retired from business in 1896 he practised 
as a solicitor at Newport (Mon.), and acted for numerous 
ironworks and colliery companies in South Wales. He is a 
member of the Reform Club and J.P. for the county, and 
represents Braydon in the Cricklade and Wootton Bassett 
Union. 

Mrs. Ward has organised and successfully carried out a 
weekly working party for St. John Ambulance during the war, 
and has sent large consignments of hospital requisites regularly 
as a result of these efforts. 

Miss Meriol Goodwin, Mrs. Ward's niece, spent a long time 
nursing the soldiers in the Bath Military Hospital. 



Mr. J. H. Sadler remembers as a boy the different services 
and aspect of the interior of our interesting old Church. At 
that time, some sixty years ago, the music was supplied by flutes 
and viols, 2 which, after much tuning and blowing, were ready 
for their work. The performers were seated in a gallery 
which was placed over the west entrance, and later on the 
organ, which was obtained by the energies of his uncle, 
Mr. W. H. Sadler, stood in the gallery in place of the earlier 
band of musicians. This was in the year 1851. 

The galleries ran along the south side of the nave and in 
the north transept. One in which the Sadler family sat was 

1 Mentioned in Sir D. Haig's despatches. 

2 The " flutes and viols " must have been highly prized by our 
predecessors, for the following short extract from the late Major Prower's 
diary proves this : 

" 20th July, 1851. Sunday. 

" Gallery choir ceased to sing being in dudgeon on account of the 
organ being ordered." 



103 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

approached from the western end of the nave by a spiral stair- 
case. Behind this gallery a door, which must have been a 
narrow one, had its place in a portion of the window on the side 
next the south porch (then the vestry). Steps led to this 
gallery from outside. Six families occupied the seats in this 
larger gallery. 

The three-decker pulpit, with clerk's desk, stood in more or 
less the centre of the Church, i.e. in front of the second pillar 
on the left side of the aisle. Beside this was the large square 
Purton House pew. 

There is an interesting fragment of oak carving on the back 
part of the right reading desk, and part of one of the old galleries 
forms the counter in Mr. Kempster's shop. 

The curious sword which was found with the skeleton in 
the ancient chapel wall was bought many years ago by Major 
Prower from a man at Braydon, in whose possession it then 
was. 

Colonel Prower has kindly promised to restore it to its rightful 
place, the Church where it was found. It will form an interesting 
relic in the Priest's Room Museum. 

Job Morse remembers the finding of the skeleton in the 
wall. He was present, and said the shape of a form was there, 
but blew away in dust when the air got in, leaving only the 
bones. 

In the year 1839 a man named Lloyd visited Wiltshire, 
and carved with the most accurate care models of the three 
churches, Purton, Wroughton and Clyffe Pypard. In the 
models the interior of the churches is exactly reproduced. The 
model of Purton Church is now in the possession of Miss Prower, 
and is complete even to the green frill surrounding the square 
Purton House pew. 

With regard to the patron saint, a curious local tradition 
ascribes it to St. Michael, and the fact that the village feast falls 
on the Sunday within the octave of St. Michael seems to lend 
colour to this view. * It almost seems as though both over the 
building and dedication of our Church opinions were inclined 
to differ and refuse to give way to one another in those far-off 
times. 

When the old vicarage was demolished in the spring of 

1 Wilts Notes and Queries. 
104 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

1913, the Rev. J. E. Pugh spent many hours searching for 
treasure which might possibly have been buried beneath the 
old house. The dust and mess was horrible, but he persevered 
with the help of a large sieve, and at last he was rewarded by 
finding four coins : 

1. Dated George II., cast in commemoration of the peace, 
and engraved, " Peace nourishes trade." Britannia seated, 
watching a ship in full sail, as she leans upon her shield. 

2. A beautiful little coin engraved, " Carolus. D.G.M.A.G.C. 
Rit. Fram. F. T. Hip. Rex." 

3. A very roughly made, not symmetrical, coin of copper. 

4. Silver, so worn no marks legible. 

Mr. Pugh kindly presented his find to the proposed Priest's 
Room Museum. Some months ago the bell-hanger, Mr. Doble, 
was in the belfry with the writer, and he discovered a most 
curious part of an old barrel-organ of which no one living had 
ever heard. It revolves on pivots, and a label on it bears the 
words, " End of second Chant," showing that in times now long 
forgotten it had borne its part in the services of the Church. 
Some carved fragments of stone were also found, evidently 
part of a former niche. As already stated, the floor of the belfry 
was in a terribly worn condition, full of holes, and really 
very unsafe. This has now been thoroughly restored and 
strengthened, which was very necessary for the safety of all 
concerned. 

There is a curious saying, the origin of which is wrapped in 
mystery, used by West-country people on seeing a door left 
open. " Oh, you come from Purton ! " is said to the offender. 
From and before the days of Dean Swift this is to some minds 
a deadly crime, and the story goes that a servant of his, having 
been sent to a distant part of the country somewhere in Ireland, 
received an urgent message to return. 

On entering the crusty old Dean's presence, he discovered 
the sole reason for his recall in the following stern order, " Shut 
the door ! " Surely we may be forgiven for believing that the 
saying with regard to Purton folk may have originated in a 
hospitable instinct to keep an open friendly door, ever offering 
to the traveller a welcome within. 



105 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

The writer recently met a lady whose son was fighting in 
France, and he had written home saying that he had been with 
some soldiers in a house, and one had left the room and forgotten 
to close the door. A Cornishman who was present at once 
called out, " Oh, you come from Purton ! " " What do you 
know of Purton ? " asked the young officer. " Oh, I don't 
know where the place is, but they never shut the doors there ! " 
was the reply. 



106 



CHAPTER XV 

PURTON FAIR THE BONFIRE THE PLAY CLOSE 
THE BIND HOUSE 

Purton Fair 

THIS, with a weekly market (held on Thursdays), was instituted 
in 1213 by " Royal Charter " for the continual support of a 
Chaplain to minister in the Chapel dedicated to St. John the 
Baptist at Purton. It was to commence on the morning of the 
24th of June, the festival of the patron saint of the Chapel, and 
to continue for one day only. 1 This Chapel appears to have 
been quite distinct from the Church itself, and exempt from the 
control of the Vicar of the parish. There is mention of an 
Oratory in Purton, built about this date by Thomas de Peritone, 
which seems to have been a private chapel for his own use, 
as it was erected " infra septa curiae suae de Peritone ; " and the 
grant of the Abbot of Malmesbury of complete exemption 
from the mother Church at Purton for this Oratory, on condition 
that the said Thomas would " undertake that the said Church 
should not be the loser in any manner there from," rather inclines 
one to think the Oratory and private chapel were on eand the 
same building. 

In Hone's Everyday Book the following account of Purton 
Fair is written by one Charles Tomlinson, which is given in his 
own words : 

Aug. 18. 1826. 

DEAR SIR, 

Perhaps you or some of your readers may be acquainted 
with a small village in the north of Wiltshire called Purton, 
very pleasantly situated, and dear to me, from a child : it 
being the place where I passed nearly all my boyish days. I 
went to school there, and spent many a pleasant hour, which 

1 This does not agree with the date given later. 
107 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

I now think of with sincere delight, and perhaps you will not 
object to a few particulars concerning a fair held there on the 
ist of May and the 3rd of September in every year. The spot 
wheron Purton Fair is annually celebrated, is a very pleasant 
little green, called " The Close " or play ground, belonging to 
all the unmarried men in the village. They generally assemble 
there every evening after the toils of the day, to recreate them- 
selves with a few pleasant sports. 

Their favorite game is what they call back-swording, in 
some places called single-stick. Some few of the village have 
the good fortune to be adepts in the noble art, and are held up 
as beings of transcendent genius, among the rustic admirers of 
that noted science. They have one whom they call their 
umpire, to whom all disputes are referred, and he always with 
the greatest impartiality decides them. About six years ago, 
a neighbouring farmer, whose orchard joins the Green, thought 
that his orchard might be greatly improved. He accordingly 
set to work, pulled down the original wall, and built a new one, 
not forgetting to take in several feet of the Green. The village 
felt great indignation at the encroachment and resolved to 
claim their rights. They waited till the new wall should be 
completed, and in the evening of the same day a party of about 
40 marched to the spot, armed with great sticks, pick-axes etc. 
and very deliberately commenced breaking down the wall. 
The owner, on being apprised what was passing, assembled all 
his domestics, and proceeded to the spot, where a furious 
scuffle ensued, several serious accidents happened. However, 
the aggressor, finding he could not succeed, proposed a settle- 
ment : he entirely removed the new wall on the following day, 
and returned it to the place where the old one stood. On the 
morning of the Fair, as soon as the day begins to dawn, all is 
bustle and confusion throughout the village. 

Gipsies are first seen with their donkeys approaching the 
place of rendezvous : then the village rustics in their clean 
white Sunday smocks, and the lasses with their Sunday Gowns, 
caps and ribands hasten to the Green and all is mirth and gaiety. 
I cannot pass over a very curious character who used regularly 
to visit the Fair. 

I was told by an ancient inhabitant that he had done so 
for several years. He was an old gipsey, who has attained 

108 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

to high favour with the younkers of the place, from his jocular 
habits, curious dress, and pleasant stories he used to relate. 

He called himself " Corey Dyne " or " Old Corey," and 
those are the only names by which he was known. He was 
accustomed to place a little hat on the ground, from the centre 
of which rose a stick about three feet high, whereon he put 
either half pence, or a small painted box, or something equally 
winning to the eye of his little customers. There he stood 
crying, " Now, who throws with poor old Corey come to Corey 
come to Corey Dyne : only a halfpenny a throw, and only 
once a year." A boy who had purchased the right to throw 
was placed about three feet from the hat, with a small piece of 
wood, which he threw at the article on the stick, and if it fell 
in the hat (which by the by it was almost invariably sure to do), 
the thrower lost his money : but if out of the hat, on the ground, 
the article on the stick was claimed by the thrower. 

The good humour of Old Corey, generally insured him 
plenty of custom. I have oftentimes been the loser, but never 
the winner. I believe that no one in all Purton knows from 
whence he is, though everybody is acquainted with him. There 
was a large show on the place, and the rustics were wont to 
gaze with surprise and admiration. The chief object of their 
wonder was our "Punch." They could not form the slightest 
idea, how little wooden figures could talk and dance about, 
they supposed that there must be some hie in them. I well 
remember that I once undertook to set them right, but was 
laughed at and derided for my presumption and boast of 
superior knowledge. There was also another very merry 
fellow who frequented the Fair, by the name of Mr. Merriman. 

He obtained great celebrity by giving various imitations of 
birds, etc., which he would very readily do, after collecting a 
sufficient sum, " to clear his pipe," as he used to say. 

He then began with the nightingale, which he imitated very 
successfully, then followed the blackbird, linnet, gold finch, 
robin, geese, and ducks on a rainy morning, turkeys, etc. etc. 
Then perhaps, after collecting more money to clear his pipe, 
he would imitate a jackass, or a cow. His excellent imitation 
of the crow of a cock strongly affected the risible muscles of 
his auditors. 

The amusements lasted till nearly midnight, when the rustics 

109 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

being exhilarated with the effects of good strong Wiltshire ale, 
generally part, after a few glorious battles. Next day, several 
champions enter the field, to contest the right to several prizes, 
which are laid out in the following order : 

ist. A new smock. 

2nd. A new hat, with a blue cockade. 

3rd. An inferior hat, with a white cockade. 

4th. A still inferior hat, without a cockade. 

A stage is erected on the Green at 5 o'clock, the sport 
commences, and a very celebrated personage, whom they call 
their " umpshire " (umpire) stands high above the rest to award 
the prizes. 

The candidates are generally selected from the best players 
at singlestick, and, on this occasion, they use their utmost skill 
and ingenuity, and are highly applauded by the surrounding 
spectators. I must not forget to remark, that on this grand, 
and to them interesting day, the inhabitants of Purton do not 
combat against each other no believe me Sir, they are better 
acquainted with the laws of Chivalry. 

Purton produces four candidates, and a small village 
adjoining called Stretton 1 sends forth four more. These 
candidates are representatives of the Village to which they 
respectively belong, and they who lose have to pay all the 
expenses of the day, but, it is to the credit of the sons of Purton 
I record, that for seven successive years, their candidates have 
been returned victors. 

The contest generally lasts two hours, and, after that, the 
ceremony of chairing the representatives takes place, which is 
thus performed. Four chairs, made with the boughs of trees 
are in waiting, and the conquerors are placed therein, and 
carried through the village with every demonstration of joy, 
the inhabitants shouting " Purton for ever ! Huzza my boys ! 
Huzza ! " waving boughs over their triumphant candidates. 
After the chairing they adjourn to the village public house, 
and spend the remainder of the evening as before. 

The 3rd day is likewise a day of bustle and confusion. 
All repair to a small common called the Cricket ground, and 
a grand match takes place between the Purton Club and 

1 Now Stratton, so called from the Roman Street. 
no 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Stretton Club. There are about twenty candidates of a 
side. 

The vanquished parties pay is. each, to defray the expenses 
of a cold collation, which is previously provided in a pleasant 
little copse, adjoining the Cricket ground, and the remainder 
of the day is spent convivially. I remember hearing the 
landlord of the Public House Purton, which is situated on one 
side of the Green observe to a villager, that during the three 
days merriment he had sold 6,000 gallons of strong beer and 
ale. The man of course doubted him, and afterwards very 
sarcastically remarked to me. 

" Its just as asy measter for he to zay zix thousand as dree 
thousand." Does not this, good Mr. Editor, show a little 
genuine Purton wit ? 

I am now my dear Sir finished and have endeavoured to 
describe three pleasant days spent in an innocent and happy 
manner, and if I have succeeded in affording you any service, 
or your readers any amusement, I am amply rewarded. 

Allow me to add I feel such an affection for old Purton, 
that should I at any time in my life visit Wiltshire, I would 
travel twenty miles out of my road to ramble once more in the 
haunts of my boyhood. 

Believe me, my dear Sir, 

August 18. 1826. 

Since writing above, I have received a letter from a very 
particular friend, who went to Purton School five years, to whom 
I applied for a few extra particulars respecting the Fair etc. 
and he thus writes : 
DEAR C. 

You seem to think that with the name, I still retain alj 
the characteristics and predilections of a " hodge," and there- 
fore, you seek to me for information respecting the back-sword 
playing, Fair, etc 

I know that as to the first, it is, and has been for the last two 
years, entirely done away with, as the principal farmers in the 
place " done like it," and so dont suffer it As to the Fair, 
where lads and lasses meet in their best gowns, and ribands 
and clean smocks, you must know most assuredly more than 
I do, as I seldom troubled about it. 

in 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

You must bear in mind that this Fair is exactly the same as 
that held in the month of May, but, as no notice has been taken 
of it by Mr. Hone in either of his volumes, I suppose it very 
little matters whether your description is of the Fair held in 
May or December [sic]. 

I have to lament, my dear Sir, the discontinuance of the 
ancient custom of back-swording at Purton village but, as long 
as they keep up their Fairs, the other loss will not be so much 
felt. 

Aug. 13. 1826. 

A note is added by C. T. saying that Old Corey only came 
to the Autumn Fair, and that that held in May was for cattle 
alone, while the later one was for pleasure. 

Then follows a poem with this dedication : 

To the worthy and respectable inhabitants of Purton this 
song is most respectfully inscribed by their ever true and 
devoted humble servant, Charles Tomlinson. 



Song : Purton Fair. 

Come neighbours listen, I '11 sing you a song 
Which I assure you, will not keep you long, 
I 11 sing a good song, about old Purton Fair. 
For that is the place lads, to drive away care. 

The damsels all meet full of mirth and of glee, 
And they are as happy, as happy can be, 
Such worth and such beauty fairs seldom display, 
And sorrow is banished on this happy day. 

There 's the brave lads of Purton at back-sword so clever. 
Who were ne'er known to flinch, but victorious ever, 
The poor boys of Stretton are bashed away, 
For Purtons famed youth ever carry the day. 

Tis old" Corey Dyne " who wisely declares, 
Stretton's lads must be beaten at all Purton's Fairs, 
They cant match our courage, then huzza my boys 
To still conquering Purton, let 's kick up a noise ! 



112 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Old Corey 's the merriest blade in the Fair, 
What he tells us is true, so prithee dont spare, 
Remember poor Corey, Come pray have a throw, 
Tis but once a year, as you very well know. 

But here ends my song, so lets haste to the Green, 
Tis as pretty a spot as ever was seen, 
And if you are sad, or surrounded with care, 
Haste quickly, haste quickly, to Old Purton Fair. 

Purton Bonfire. 

In another letter from Charles Tomlinson to the Editor 
of the Everyday Book, we find the following : 

DEAR SIR, 

At almost every village in England, the fifth of November 
is regarded in a very especial manner. Some pay greater 
attention to it than others, but I believe it is invariably noticed 
by all. 

I have been present at Old Purton bonfire, and perhaps 
the following short notice of it may not be uninteresting. 

I before stated that the green, or Close, at Purton, is the 
spot alloted for amusements in general. This is also the place 
for the ceremonies on this highly important day, which I am 
about to describe. 

Several weeks before, the boys of the village go to every 
house begging faggots ; and if they are refused they all answer 
together : 

If you don't give us one 

We '11 take two ; 
The better for us, Sir, 
And the worse for you. 

They were once refused by a farmer (who was very much 
disliked by the poor for his severity and unkindness) and accord- 
ingly they determined to make him repent. He kept a sharp 
lookout over his faggot pile, but forgot that something else 
might be stolen. The boys got into his backyard and extracted 
a new pump, which had not oeen properly fixed, and bore it 
off in triumph to the green, where it was burnt amidst the loud 
acclamations of the young rogues generally. 

"3 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

All the wood, etc., which has been previously collected, 
is brought into the middle of the close where an effigy of poor 
Guy is burnt. A figure is made (similar to one of those carried 
about London Streets,) intending to represent the conspirator, 
and placed at the top of a high pole, with the fuel all around. 
Previous to lighting it, poor Guy is shot at by all who have the 
happiness to possess guns for the purpose, and pelted with 
squibs, crackers, etc. This fun continues about an hour, and 
then the pile is lighted, the place echoes with huzzas, guns keep 
up perpetual reports, fireworks are flying in all directions, and 
the village bells merrily ring. The fire is kept up a considerable 
time, and it is a usual custom for a large piece of "real Wiltshire 
bacon " to be dressed by it, which is taken to the public-house, 
together with potatoes roasted in the ashes of the bonfire, and 
a jovial repast is made. As the fire decreases, successive 
quantities of potatoes are dressed in the embers by the rustics, 
who seem to regard them as the great delicacies of the night. 

There is no restraint put on the loyal zeal of these good folks, 
and the fire is maintained to a late hour. I remember, on one 
occasion, hearing the guns firing as I lay in bed between two 
and three o'clock in the morning. The public-house is kept open 
nearly all night, ale flows plentifully, and it is not spared by the 
revellers. They have a noisy chorus, which is intended as a 
toast to his Majesty, it runs thus : 

My brave lads remember 

The fifth of November, 

Gunpowder treason and plot, 

We will drink, smoke, and sing, boys, 

And our bells they shall ring, boys, 

And here 's health to our King, boys, 

For he shall not be forgot. 

Their merriment continues till morning, when they generally 
retire to rest very much inebriated, or, as they term it, " merry," 
or "top heavy." 

I hope to have the pleasure of reading other communications 
in your interesting work on this good old English custom ; 
and beg to remain, 

Dear Sir, etc., . 

C. T. 
October 20, 1826. 

114 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

These very interesting stories of old days seem to bring with 
them a wish to know something of the manner in which the 
people of Purton obtained this privilege of having a Play Close 
or Green, forever reserved for them and their descendants. 
The writer has therefore, through the kindness of Mrs. Story- 
Maskelyne, obtained the following information : 

Purton Play Close. 

Under the name of " The Church House Close," a close 
of pasture containing three acres more or less, now known by 
the name of the Play Close, was conveyed by Henry Gleed, 
" Innholder," and Mary his wife to Trustees in the year 1641, 
and with it a house adjoining called " Weekes" or " Wilkes." 
The close of pasture was " to be used for a place of exercise, 
recreation, lawful sports and pastimes, at all fit and convenient 
tymes and seasons for the common good and benefit of the young 
and other inhabitants of Purton." 

The house was to be held in trust for an almshouse for 
the poor people of Purton, who were " to be placed there as 
the Vicar, Churchwardens, and Overseers of the Poor, and other 
chiefest and best sort of inhabitants of the Parish of Purton, 
or the major part of them shall appoint." 

The above-mentioned house called " Weekes " and the 
" Church House Close " had previously formed part of the 
copyhold estate of Henry Gleed 's father, John Gleed, which 
was enfranchised in 1608 by Gray, Lord Chandos, son of the 
first Lord Chandos, and owner of much land formerly belonging 
to the Abbey of Malmesbury. In the Gleeds' time the Church 
House was occupied by John Pannell, and the " Inn " presumably 
by Henry Gleed, as he is described as an " Innholder," and now 
" Weekes " becomes the Almshouse. The Trustees who paid 
66 to Henry Gleed and his wife, 17 Charles I., 1641, for this 
close of pasture and " Weekes " to be held in trust for the 
inhabitants of Purton were : 

Nevill Maskelyne (Gent). 

William Maskelyne (Gent). 

William Skilling, 

George Stevens, 

Richard Bathe, 

Thomas Carter, and 

John Telling of Purton (Yeomen). 

"5 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Where Mr. Mussell's shop now stands was once the " Lock 
up," 1 where those villagers who had forfeited their right to 
freedom through drink or other causes were placed " in durance 
vile " until the Justices could sit and pronounce sentence upon 
them. There was no window in front in those days ; the 
opening door was on the right side (now closed) ; and as the 
level of the interior was much below the present floor, it must 
have been indeed a stuffy and unpleasant abode. 

The old door may still be seen on an outhouse. It is of 
oak, freely studded over with nails, and an oblong opening, 
strongly barred with iron near the top, was the only apparent 
ventilation available. 

Across the narrow alley may be seen the ancient house of 
" Weekes," once the Almshouse of the parish, and mentioned 
as such in Mrs. Story-Maskelyne's notes. It is a large house 
built of the local stone, with a stone tile roof ; its condition 
is lamentable, the tiles are only held in position at the edge 
of the roof by a piece of rabbit wire arranged to catch them 
should they fall. 

There is an immense chimney on the left side, wide enough 
to have been used as a hiding-place should occasion have 
required it, and a pretty old window at the back, which once 
no doubt looked on to the Play Close, but now only overlooks 
a small garden. 

The " Co-operative Stores " just opposite is an old house, 
and bears the date 1677. 

The stocks once stood somewhere in this part of the village, 
and an unpleasant enough position it must have been, as no 
doubt the children of those days were much like their 
descendants at Purton to-day, and would have much enjoyed 
some horse-play with a helpless victim in the stocks, who would 
have been quite unable to defend himself or retaliate in any 
way. 

Early in the nineteenth century a dispute arose in connection 
with the Play Close, as Mr. Raskins' grandfather began to make 
a road across it to gain access to his fields from the High Street. 
This was fiercely resented by the neighbours, and while the 
work of making the road was continued by day, each night 
deep ditches were dug across by the indignant Purtonians. 
1 Or " Bind House." 

116 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

At length the law was called in, and after much discussion 
Mr. Haskins was allowed to make his road, but only so as to 
enable him to have ingress and egress to his farm. 

The curious little pathway which runs from the Schools to 
the High Street, with high walls on either side, bears the quaint 
name of " The Little Lane." 

While thinking of names, one occurs frequently during the 
eighteenth century in the deeds' Charity Accounts which is 
worthy of record, namely " Thomas Catchaside." Surnames 
were probably given as nicknames when not derived from 
property, and one wonders whether Thomas Catchaside or his 
ancestor had done some unusual feat on the cricket field to 
earn himself this appellation. No descendants of the name 
exist to-day in Purton. 

Wayside pools rejoice in picturesque names in this neighbour- 
hood, Harvest Water, the Weir Pond and the Wash Pool 
bringing to one's mind scenes from other days now long 
departed, of horses watered during harvest, an ancient water 
system, and a sheep dipping. 



117 



CHAPTER XVI 

BRADEN FOREST PARISH BOUNDARIES 

By Mrs. Story-Maskelyne 

FORESTS originally were not merely tracts of wooded country, 
but included waste ground, moors and commons, such as 
Dartmoor, Exmoor, etc., within the boundary of which the 
rights of hunting were reserved for the King, and they were 
subject to very severe forest laws, which dated back to the 
days of Canute. 

The earliest record we have of Braden Forest is in one of 
the charters of Malmesbury Abbey, dated A.D. 796, where it is 
stated that Purton, or Piritone as it was then called, was 
situated " on the east side of Braden Forest" 

The wood at Purton, as recorded in Domesday, was two 
miles long and two broad, but though the forest was no doubt 
larger than this, including as it did a considerable portion of 
Cricklade Parish, it was at that time very much smaller than 
it became in the days of King Henry II. and John, for those 
Norman princes were wont to increase their hunting grounds 
by encroaching on and afforesting the woods of their neighbours, 
and subjecting them to the stringent forest laws by which they 
protected the deer and other wild animals living in the woods, 
and keeping them for their own private sport. 

Much in the same way as William Rufus created the New 
Forest for his own hunting ground, so we find that several 
woods near Purton were afforested by Henry II. and John, 
and thus added to Braden Forest. 

These encroachments included 

Brockenbury, Brenke- all belonging to Malmesbury Abbey, 
worth, Cheorlton 
and Purton woods. 

Woods of the Manor Cirencester Abbey. 
of Minety. 

118 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Woods of the Manor all belonging to Stanley Abbey, 
of Midgehall. 

Woods of the Manor Tewkesbury Abbey, 
of Ashton. 

Woods of the Manor William de Grandison. 

of Lydiard Tregoze. 

Woods of Hailstone the Abbey of Gloucester. 

(nr. Cricklade). 

Woods of Lydiard John de Cleetor and 

Millicent Manor. Robert Russell. 

The Brochure Woods Elizabeth Paynell and 

Alionora de Keynes. 

We learn from this list and other evidence that after the 
Norman afforestations and encroachments Braden Forest 
included Wootton Bassett x on the south to near Ashton Keynes 
on the north, extending to the River Rey on the east and to 
Charlton on the west. The ancient oaks still living on Blagrove 
Farm probably mark an outlying part of a black grove of the 
old forest. 

In consequence of the grave troubles arising from these 
Norman afforestations, Henry III., when only nine years of 
age, was compelled to issue the Charter of the Forest in 1217. 

To comply with the directions of the Charter, perambula- 
tions of the forests were necessary, and they were, moreover, 
required in order to carry out special regulations regarding the 
sale of fallen timber after the great gale of 1222. Braden 
Forest was one of over forty forests affected by the gale, the 
perambulation of which was made in Henry III.'s reign. 

Further perambulations made in 1300 (Edward I.) and in 
Edward III.'s reign show that by that time the forest was 
greatly reduced in size. a 

The following story taken from the Cartulary of Malmesbury 
Abbey is a good exemplification of forest troubles : 

" The Abbot of Malmesbury hath a wood which is called 
Flusrygge, appertaining to his Manor of Cruddewell, and have 

1 Wootton Bassett is mentioned as " intra silvam que vocatur" in a 
charter of Eadwig. 

z See perambulations of both dates at the end of the paper from 
J. T. Akerman's paper in Archceologia, vol. xxxvii. 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

had this wood in severally . . . now 500 years and upwards, 
till the reign of King John who enf crested it, and since that 
time they have had the same wood . . . against all men's 
rights, from Michaelmas day at noon until Martinmas day at 
noon, for preservation of the Mast. It happened on the Morrow 
of St. Michael in the 6th year of King Edward, that the Earl of 
Hereford being at His Manor of Wokesege, which is near to 
the same wood of Flusrygge, there came his people and put the 
demesne hogs of the Earl and the hogs of his people of the town 
of Wokesege into the aforesaid wood ; then came the Abbot's 
people and impounded the Earl's hogs and the hogs of his men at 
his manor of Cruddewell. Soon after came the demesne people 
of the Earl and the people of the town with great force, and 
broke down the gates and forcibly took out the hogs, and 
wounded the Abbot's people even unto the death, so that the 
Coroner was sent to look into this great affray. The hogs were 
forcibly driven back to the wood and kept there over 15 days 
till all the Mast was consumed ; so that no one belonging to 
the Abbot dared to come near the wood." 

J. T. Akerman, from whose History of Malmesbury and 
Braden these extracts are quoted, says that " a quit claim of 
the Earl of Hereford brought this dispute to an amicable 
conclusion." 

In later times the inclosures of commons and the dis- 
afforestation of forest lands brought other grievances into 
notice, and when Charles I. handed over a large tract of Braden 
Forest for inclosure, the rights of the inhabitants, which now 
came to an end, to pasture their cattle in the woods and wastes 
and to gather fuel there had to be considered by the Exchequer 
Commissioners. In 1628 they reported (inter alia) that Edward 
Pleydell 1 had been " accustomed the Thursdays before Shrove 
Sunday yearly, to hunte, chase, kill and carry awaye the Venison 
and wylde beastes that they should fynde in the places of the 
sayde forest called Great Sautridge, Little Sautridge, Keynes Wood, 
Poucher's Ragg, Cove Wood, Wood brechc, The Leighe fields, 
Brownes and Hailstones even unto Cricklade" He also claimed 
fishing rights at West Mills. 

1 He was a landowner in Cricklade. 
I2O 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

The proceeds of the hunt were applied to the Parish Church 
of Cricklade. 

In these days J. Aubrey x was told by Mr. G. Ayliffe, of 
Grittenham, " that a squirrel might have jumped from tree to 
tree all the way from Wootton Bassett to Grittenham." 

After the inclosure of 1628, Charles I. allotted 100 acres to 
the poor of Cricklade and 25 acres to the poor of Purton Stoke, 
in lieu of their forest rights. 

The profits arising from the letting of the aforesaid twenty- 
five acres allotted to the poor of Purton Stoke are distributed 
at the beginning of each year, but the present footing on which 
the charity was established was not made till the eighth year 
of George III., when it was ordered that the inhabitants of 
Purton Stoke should be at liberty to nominate fifteen Trustees 
to set and let the twenty-five acres of land, and to manage the 
said charity for the said benefit of the poor inhabitants ; also 
that as often as the number of Trustees should be reduced 
to seven others were to be named to make the number to 
fifteen. 

The twenty-five acres are partly in Purton Parish and partly 
in Cricklade, and they consist of two fields of pasture ground. 
The Trustees distribute the rents yearly on the first Thursday 
after the 6th of January, application being made a year before 
the applicants can receive the charity, and when once admitted 
they receive it for life. In 1765 30 gs. was distributed among 
sixteen families. In 1885 one field was let for 30 and the 
other 19. In 1917 there were only nine Trustees appointed 
to act. * 

Inclosures of the Common Field. 

The inclosure and disafforestation of woods and wastes, 
interfering with ancient rights which the owners were bound 
to respect and by which the people claimed " House bote," 
" fyre bote," " hedge bote," " gate bote," etc., were frequent 
sources of trouble down to the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. Troubles arising from the manner in which the 

1 J. Aubrey, the great antiquary and historian of Wiltshire of the 
seventeenth century. 

3 See Chapter viii. 
121 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

common fields, both arable and pasture, were cultivated were 
equally common at that time. 

The earliest inclosure of common land in Purton Parish 
was effected in the reign of Queen Elizabeth in A.D. 1594, when 
Lord Chandos, who became a landowner there after the dissolu- 
tion of Malmesbury Abbey, agreed with " the tenants, free- 
holders, copy-holders and f ermore within the manor and lordship 
of Pirton and Purton Keynes, to exchange, inclose and take in 
several lands lying in the Common fields of Pirton." Four 
years later they confirmed the original Inclosure Act, and " for a 
competent sum of money did assent and approve the exchanges 
. . . clearly freed from all clayme right and interest of 
common," at the same time specifying that these exchanges 
should be made without interfering with the " Custom of the 
Manor" 

In this unsettled state of affairs it was evidently necessary 
that the people's rights should be defined and stated in writing, 
so that they could be referred to when required, and Certains 
Customes belonging to the Mannor of Pirton, a document on 
parchment now at Basset Down, was probably written for this 
purpose and at this time ; it probably was Edmund Maskelyne's 
own copy, to which he referred in his reply to a suit in Chancery, 
alluded to farther on. 

It is written, with many abbreviations, on a long parchment 
roll, * containing forty items. 

The customs relate to copyholders, inheritance and tenure 
of land and heriots, whilst others relate to the rights and customs 
of the people to have timber, wood, stone and sand for their 
" house bote," etc. 

The following items will suffice to give an idea of these old 
customs : 

Item 12. " Our Custom is to have all manner of Timber 
for our reparations of Customary tenements as often as need 
shall require, as well for doores, wyndowes, as other great timber, 
appointed by the lord's officer, and also that we should have 
sande, for the same separations in the Common, and also stones 
if we have any within our arable ground, every man upon his 
own ground." 

1 Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xl., p. no. 

122 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Item 13. " Our Custom is if we take timber for reparation 
of bridge we should have it delivered by the Lord or his 
officers, as often as need shall require." 

Item 14. " Our Custom is that all Toppes, Starved trees 
windfalls and shrowdes, all underwood as thorn, maple, hazel, 
and withy, as others, to be ours by our Customs." 

In Item 12 we notice that sand and stone belonged by custom 
to the people with certain restrictions, and this fact is alluded 
to in Edmund Maskelyne's reply to a bill in Chancery concerning 
the early inclosure of 1597, where he mentions " Stean Mead " 
as a place for getting stone without trespass. "Stean Mead," 
near Woodwards Bridge, was called Vennys when bought by 
Edmund Maskelyne for 2 in 1610. 

The common fields concerned in the inclosure of 1597 are 
not mentioned by name in the Act, nor are the names of the 
freeholders and copyholders concerned in the exchanges with 
Grey, Lord Chandos, but from a MS. book written by Nevill 
Maskelyne in 1630, soon after the death of his father Edmund, 
we find that 850 more acres of common or waste land were 
inclosed by agreement between George, Lord Chandos, and 
the inhabitants of the Manor, when the following fields were 
still uninclosed : 

" Betwell Field, Combe Field, Church Field, Bar-field, Bryn- 
field, Estfield, SparsoU Field, Clardon Field." 

Betwell Field is elsewhere called Battle Field, or Bettle Field. 
Barfield is evidently what is now known as Berkfield. 1 

The fields were all arable, and they were cultivated in 
common, according to the custom of the country, " controuled " 
by the Constables and Tythingmen chosen yearly by the 
Steward and Court of the Manor, who met and decided on 
the crop to be sown ; their decision was law. 

The arable fields " were to receive rotation of either wheat, 
rye, or spring crops, and were thrown open when the crops 
were carried, to be depastured in common by the cattle of 
the Community." They were divided into permanent strips 

1 See Chapter ix. 
123 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

of unequal size, scattered over the fields, and allotted to the 
inhabitants of the neighbourhood according to their importance, 
the lord of the Manor claiming one fifteenth. 

The extreme inconvenience of this old method of cultivation 
is obvious, and led to further inclosures and exchanges. 

The reasons given for both the 1738 and the 1799 inclosures 
the first applying to pasture land and the second to arable, 
were similar. 

In 1738, when 1,200 acres known as Purton Common and 
Purton Stoke Common, including Shooters Hill, Peavenhill, 
Bagbury Green, Little Marsh, Widham and Cow Street, parts 
of the Manors of Great Purton, Purton Keynes, and Purton 
Pouchers, were enclosed, it was stated that " for want of proper 
culture the Common land had been greatly impoverished," 
and frequent disputes arose among the owners of adjoining 
land relating " to their rights of Stinting, 1 or Stocking the 
Common, the land and freeholders were desirous that a specific 
part should be assigned to each proprietor to hold as freehold 
farms," or, as stated in 1799, " whereas the properties of ... 
owners in the open and common fields lie intermixed and 
dispersed in small parcels in their present situation, and are 
incapable of any considerable improvement, but if divided and 
inclosed and specific allotments made to the several persons 
interested therein, such allotments and inclosures would tend 
greatly to the advantage and improvement of their Estate." 
Therefore the inclosure was effected. 

Since the passing of the last Inclosure Act of 1799 the 
modern map of Purton Parish presents a totally different aspect 
to what we see portrayed in an old map finished in 1744, which 
shows the arable fields still cultivated in strips. 

The numbers on the map refer to the owner of the 
strip, or land, * and they show that No. 3, for example, held 
ten separate strips in this one field, all lying separate from one 
another. We are told that " the 100 acres belonging to the 

1 The Stint was the unit by which rights of common were measured, 
one Stint being the right to pasture during a definite part of the year one horse 
or two cows, or ten sheep, or one sheep or three geese. 

1 The word " land " is used to denote the ground between two water 
furrows in a ploughed field. The head land is where you turn the plough. 



124 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Rector's Glebe near Peterborough, was made up of 145 strips 
with no better boundary from other properties on each side 
than a mere furrow." 

It was this awkward arrangement that led to the 
inclosures of Purton Parish and elsewhere. 

A Perambulation of Braden Forest in the reign of 
Henry III. 

The boundary began at " Brimyngersbridge," and goes on 
to " Garesbourne " ; to " Wodebridge," " Wishweresmull," 
" Shaldeford," " Bradenbrook," " Steortwood," by " Swillbrook," 
to " Pye Hegge " ; by the Thames to " Halegston " ; to " West 
Mull " ; to " Couel de croyz " (which Mr. Akerman thinks was 
a cross with a cover in or near Cricklade) ; then to " Calcot 
bridge"; to "Stokken lake"; to " Eisey bridge"; to the 
River " Rey " at " Langebrigge " ; to " WydehuU Mill " ; to 
" Ayldef ord " ; to " Shaghebrigge," and so back to the 
commencement . 

In Edward III.'s time, after the passing of the Charter of 
the forest, the boundaries show that the forest was greatly 
reduced in size. They began at " Beostock " ; then " to a small 
stream called " Greenbourne" ; to " Colstockesford " "by the 
two Sandfordes " and the " Calewe-hill de la Cove " to " Gode- 
frayshurn " ; to " Sandraggeshok " ; to " Canonesweye," " along 
the Thames to the house of William of the Mill"; "to the 
" Cowled Cross " ; to " Stokebridge," " Wydemor," " Peverelse- 
woode," and so back to " Beostock." 

In Charles I.'s reign the woods near Cricklade and Purton 
were disafforested and let to Philip Jacobson (to whom the King 
owed a large sum of money) and to others. The boundaries ran 
from " Charnam Oak," where was a Mere ; to a gutter called 
Greenbourne ; to Sandf ord ; to the Leigh Marsh ; to Bum-lake ; 
and to the River Thames ; to Halstone Bridge ; to West Mills ; 
to " Culver Hay Cross " ; to the " Forty " ; to the end of 
" Chelworth Lane " ; to " Frith End " ; " by the brook to Stoke 
Bridge " ; to " Scholar's Cross " ; to the Mere by Charnam 
Oak. 

The boundaries of the Hamlet of Braden, as given in 1591, 
called the " Dutchie woods adjoining unto the Forest of Bradon 

I2 5 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

and the Temple Closes, to the same appertaining, began on the 
north-east part thereof, at the north-west end of the said Tempel 
Closes, thence leading westward to Stonyhurst Waie, to Turn- 
trowe Oke, to Gospell Oke, to the south-east part of Lodge 
lawne, to Armyn Crosse, to Charlame Oke, down the green slade 
to Littell Charlame, by south part of wood to a tree called 
Dunncowe, to a mere there ; to Mapellzell to Abbottes bridge 
which boundeth upon Gestymelye ; to Purton Marsh, and so to 
south-west end of Tempell Close . . . verie good waste ground 
there." 

The Perambulation of Purton Parish in 1733. 

In bygone years it was the custom to make sure of the 
boundaries of a parish by perambulating it in May, x and 

1 Note by Author. 
ROGATION DAY PROCESSIONS. 

The term litany, a word of Greek origin, belongs properly to any 
form of entreaty, but in Christian usage it has gained a specialised meaning 
as the result of a somewhat complex history. In early days the word 
was used to describe penitential services. St. Basil speaks of these in his 
day (375), but admits they were innovations. The term thus employed 
denoted days or acts of penitence and supplication, and when this reached 
the West, it was the equivalent of " Rogation." A little later, during the 
stress of the Arian conflict, St. Chrysostom introduced processions at 
Constantinople, as a counter-blow to Arian propaganda (398), accompanied 
by responsorial singing. This proved so popular, that the custom was 
retained, and processions were henceforth used as a method of solemn 
supplication, joined often with fasting and special prayer in time of emer- 
gency. This, too, penetrated into the West. The best- known instance is 
that at Vienna, when Mamertus the Bishop in 470 ordered special Rogation 
or Litanies to be celebrated on the three days preceding Ascension Day, 
at a time of great distress and terror in his diocese caused by the eruption 
of a volcano. Thence the Rogation spread through Gaul and came to 
England. The Council of Clonshoo in 747 adopted them as well as the 
older indigenous Roman Day of Supplication on April 25th, which had 
ousted a heathen procession called the Robigalia. 

The responsorial singing would lend itself naturally for use in processions, 
when the various petitions could be simply and effectively responded to 
by the moving crowd. Accordingly, it is natural to find that in the West, 
too, at the Litania or Rogation, psalms were sung, probably responsorially, 
and formed the main part of the service. 

It was not, however, processional psalmody that was to be associated 
ultimately with the name of litany, but a form in which the deacon leads 
the prayers or names the subjects of petition, and the people answer to each 
" Lord have mercy." 

The Rogation-tide litanies seem to have developed upon various lines 
in different places in England, but they all look back to these ancient 
types. 

126 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

impressing the boundary on the memory of young people who 
accompanied their elders in the perambulation in such a manner 
as should cause them to remember the boundary accurately. 
This was done in some places by beating the boys at certain 
spots, though in Purton in 1733 this was not done, and instead 
of beating the boys money was thrown to them, and in one 
place two boys fought. We also find that at the more important 
places in the boundary a gospel was read and a cross made in 
the places where crosses had been made in former years, on 
oaks or ashes, many of them long since dead and gone. 

The "Gospel Oak," 1 now kept in the Parish Church of 
St. Sampson, Cricklade, was once a landmark on the boundary 
of the two parishes. 

The following 2 is a copy of " A true and Exact Perambulation 
of the whole Parish of Purton in the County of Wilts in the year 
of our Lord 1733 shewing all the boundaries of the said Parish 
with a particular account where the procession began and 
ended and all the Several places where Gospels were read and 
Crosses made, and all occurences that happened being the 
business of two days as followeth." It has been shortened 
by leaving out the names of former owners of land to the 
right and left of the places indicated in the boundary, 
where these names confuse the story. 

" Meeting at the Parish Church of Purton the third day of 
May where Prayers being ended the Procession went from 
thence to the Water in Jobbers Lane 8 (near Lydiard Millicent 
Church) where a Gospel was read and a Cross made, from thence 
along the bottom of Grove piece, through Gillams to Saunders 
Closes where a Gospel was read and a Cross cut on the right hand 
side of an Ashen tree, in an old decayed Mound in the Middle 
of the Close, thence to Bagbury Green where a Gospel was read 
and a Cross made . . . thence (through three grounds) to 
Restrop lane where a Gospel was read and a Cross made ; thence 
through Dry field, and He's, . . . through Gardens and 
grounds to Greenhill Ground, to an Oak called Green hill oak 
there a Gospel was read and a Cross cut on the said oak on the 

1 See Chapter xvii. 

1 Printed in Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xl., p. 119. 
8 Now called Lydiard Lane. 

I2 7 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

right hand side thereof and money thrown amongst the boys and 
to every person there present was given Cakes and Ale. From 
thence to an Oak about the middle of Greenhill where a Gospel 
was read and a Cross cut on the right hand side of the said Oak ; 
from thence to the bottom of Greenhill where a Meer Stone 
formerly stood near Sugham ford which divides the Common 
and Manor of Purton from the Manor of Lidiard Millicent 
where a Gospel was read and a Cross made. From thence 
through a ground of Nevil Maskelyne at the bottom of Greenhill 
into Purton Common . . . thence to a place where an Oak 
called Pin Oak formerly stood where a Gospel was read and 
Cross made. Thence in a direct line through the Purlieu into 
Langett 1 in Purton Common, where a Gospel was read and a 
Cross made . . . then up the road leading to Brinkworth, 
leaving the Meer stones near Webbs wood on the left hand and 
the Common of Purton on the right to a place near where an 
Oak called Jaques Oak formerly stood near Lookers wood, 
where a Gospel was read and a Cross made and money thrown 
amongst the boys leaving Lookers wood on the right hand, 
we came into Momes Leaze at the upper end or corner of Momes 
leaze a Gospel was read and a cross made. Crossing the way 
that leads from Purton to Malmesbury . . we came to the 
top of the hill called Worthy Hill turning up the lane that 
leads to Minety where a Gospel was read and a cross made. 
Leaving the Inclosures belonging to the Manor of Charleton 
on the left, and the wood called Dutchy Coppices on the right 
we came to a place where an Oak formerly stood called Charnam 
Oak where a Gospel was read and a Cross made and Money 
thrown amongst the boys, and two boys fought. This is the 
utmost Bound of the West part of the Perambulation of Purton. 
From thence through the Dutchy Wood the land of Mr. Jacob 
we came to the Dutchy lands of Mr. Nott to a house called Willis' 
house . . . then to a place where an oak formerly stood 
called Gospel Oak, where a Gospel was read and a cross made 
andjJMoney thrown amongst the boys and to every person 
there present were given Cakes and Ale. Then through the 
Dutchy lands till we came to an Ale House ; then into Cricklade 

1 A land gate, or langett, was a way by which a man went to get 
to his " land." 

128 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Road, and to a gate at the end of the lane, then leaving the gate 
on the left hand we went through the hedge on the right hand 
into the lands of Mr. Rich being Duchy lands we came to the 
corner of the Poor's Plot where a Gospel was read and a cross 
made then through a ground called Pancake Hall, crossing 
the brook into Stoake Common to the north corner of 
the Poor's Plot where the Perambulation for this day 
ended. 

" Meeting the fourth day of May in Stoake Common at the 
north corner of the Poor's Plot we proceeded to the upper 
end of Stoake Common, and so on directly up the Berry Hill 
ground till we came to a lane leading from Minety Common 
to Momes Leaze where a Gospel was read and a cross made. 
Proceeding across the end of the ground leaving the lane on 
the left hand where a Gospel was read and a cross made, 
then returning down the lands of George Pitt to a pond at the 
Corner of the Ragg meade . . . making a short turn on the 
left hand down the Ragg meade till we came to the Corner 
of the Great Ragg where a Gospel was read and a cross made, 
proceeding in a direct line till we came to a corner against 
the Great Purlieu, where a Gospel was read and a cross made 
so all through the lands of George Pitt (formerly enclosed out 
of the Common of Purton Stoake) till we came to a small stream 
called Stoake brook, we crossed the stream into a Ground 
called Monks and through another ground into Littleworth 
Lane. . . . Midway in the said lane a Gospel was read and 
a Cross made near the Shore of the ditch on the right hand and 
also on an Ashen tree over against the same, and to every person 
there present was given Cakes and Ale. 

" From thence we went . . into a ground called Littleworth 
then into a ground called East Mead, and also through Hay 
laines and Great Hayes, and Hayes lane where a Gospel was 
read and a Cross cut on an Oak on the right hand side thereof 
then through Little Hays, and the Hayes, and Marsh furlong 
and Ten acres and Gossy Mead x and the Langett, where a 
Gospel was read and a Cross made at the north east corner of 
the said Langett last mentioned from thence to a mead called 
the Ham and another called the Ham, and long acres, and a 

1 Gossy Head. " Goss " is Wiltshire for Restharrow. 
129 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

small Ham, and the Lower ground, and Gamons (and two more) 
Gamons and through two meads up to the River side called 
the Rea, and by the River side to the bridge called Woodwards 
bridge . . . where between the two bridges a Gospel was read 
and a Cross made. Then we came into North mead, and 
Long Hams, and Common Brook mead, and Smalways End 
and Wroughton mead . . and to Common mead called Brook 
mead where the river divides almost at the upper end of the 
said Common mead. Then leaving both rivers on the left hand, 
we came to a Mill heretofore called Elvers Mill * now Orchard 
Mill, where in the Hall there at the upper end of the Table a 
Gospel was read and a Penny was then paid by Orchard the 
Miller (being an Ancient Custom) to the Minister of Purton. 
Then we crossed the said River to the Mill Taile and went 
through two little meads belonging to the said Mill, then into 
a mead the lands of the Revd. Mr. Coker up the middle part 
thereof to Elvers bridge leaving a watercourse heretofore a 
River according to ancient Tradition and the best information 
that can be had, on the left hand we came on the said bridge 
called Elvers bridge where on the East side of the Bridge 
belonging to the Parish of Purton a Gospel was read and a 
Cross cut on the Post there. 

" Then we came to Elversbridge Mead and the Moor ; then 
we crossed a little Brook or Rivulet into a mead called Brimhill, 
about thirty perches up to a Meer stone there, where a Gospel 
was read and a Cross made. Then in a direct line from the Meer 
stone to a Stone bridge and went over the same into a little 
mead to the south east corner thereof then turning up the 
strait West hedge, to the back side belonging to a Farm called 
Spressels, where every person there present eat cakes and drank 
ale ... from thence up the said Backside to a pasture 
ground part of the said farm leaving the Barns, Stables and 
outbuilding in the Parish of Liddiard Millicent on the left hand, 
and so up the said ground in a direct line (through two more 
grounds) to a ground of the Revd. Mr. Richard Glasse, Vicar 
of Purton then into the highway leading to Swindon where 
a Gospel was read and a cross made. Then crossing the high- 

1 Elvers Mill was the oldest mill in Purton, older than the mill built 
by Abbot William of Coleherne. Wilts Notes and Queries. 

I 3 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

way into a ground Land of Mr. R. Tuckey, then into Longs the 
Estate of the late Mr. A. Goddard, 1 to the west Corner thereof 
where a Gospel was read and a cross made ; then thro' a 
ground called Free close and the Moor and Heycroft we came 
through the hedge to the waters in Jobbers lane where the 
Perambulation was completed and so there ended." 

1 Then part of Purton House Estate. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE WORD ALE GOSPEL OAK 

IN Mrs. Story-Maskelyne's chapter on Braden Forest some 
names of places occur to which belong facts of interest to 
Purton folk, although not actually within the parish. On the 
left of the road from Purton to Wootton Bassett is a farm 
called Midgehall, and a most interesting observance takes place 
annually called the Word Ale (Anglo-Saxon, "land" ale) in 
this house, in turn with two others (Spittlebo rough and 
Wickfield), on the first Sunday in October. 

It appears that certain lands at Midgehall were given to 
the now vanished Cistercian Abbey of Stanley, near Calne. 
Some say Pope Innocent III. made a decree exempting all 
Cistercian monasteries and their property from tithe obligations, 
and that in consequence of this the tenants of these places 
refused to pay tithe to the Rector after the Reformation, and 
a compromise was at length agreed on between them and the 
Rector of Lydiard Tregoze, under which the Convent " of their 
common consent and will, having a holy respect unto charity," 
agreed to pay annually the sum of 8s., that being then (1228) 
the estimated value of three oxen. 1 

At the ceremony, which is yearly held in one of the three 
houses, and is called " the Feast of Word Ale," those present 
are bid to " pray for the Abbot of Stanley and all the monks of 
the Cistercian order, by whom we are all tithe free, tithe free, tithe 
free" Bread, ale and cheese composes the " feast,** and it is 
supposed that were this part of the observance omitted the 
full tithe could be claimed from the present owners. 

Sad to say, the records connected with the Word Ale have 
gone astray. One Adam Tuck, who had been steward of the 
Wootton Bassett estate and Town Clerk, left in disgrace about 

1 Mr. Lee Osborn's paper on the Lvdiards 
132 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

1782, and as he took with him the Wootton Bassett Charter, 
which later was found amongst papers of his descendants at 
Denbigh, he probably also took away the Word Ale documents. 
Before the days of records being kept it was the custom to 
cut a notch annually on a white rod, to show that the ceremony 
had duly taken place, and " the hazel rod " has over two hundred 
notches cut into it, and people say there were several rods before 
this one which were lost. We have said that the feast is 
composed of biead, cheese and ale, all very good, no doubt, btit 
the toast must be rather a trial to drink, as it is to be composed 
of a mixture of " cheese, beer and onions, with various 
spices." 

One authority speaks of a " loaf of white bread into which 
a small White Wand, three feet long, must be stuck in a 
perpendicular position, also a thin Cheese, and a small barrel 
of beer. . . ." and of proceeding " to an upper chamber, where 
a Bible is placed on a table," and after business is finished 
" all will kneel down and repeat the Lord's Prayer before 
adjoining below for the Feast. The White Wand is then given 
to him whose next turn it is to hold the Court." 1 

Gospel Oak is the next name on the old map to claim 
our attentive interest. This is a farm about three miles from 
Purton, once in the Forest of Braden, and it has certainly borne 
this name for many centuries. Till 1865 a time-worn oak stood 
there, and tradition has it that under this tree "the early 
Christians used to meet." * It is hardly credible that hands 
should have been laid upon it to cut it down, but such, alas ! 
was the case, for unhappily some are born entirely lacking in 
veneration and reverence to each generation. However, some 
remnants of the tree were saved, and a large piece may now be 
seen carefully lodged in the chancel of St. Sampson's Church 
at Cricklade, while a smaller piece is kept in the house to which 
it gives its name, the property of Mr. Godfrey-Jull, now enlarged 
and adapted as a Colonial Training College. But, alas ! 
irrefutable evidence goes to prove that it is impossible that 
under the shadow of this particular tree St. Augustine met the 
British bishops A.D. 603. 

1 Wills Notes and Queries, No. 67, p. 333. 

1 " The original Gospel Oak had disappeared before 1733." Wilts 
Arch. Mag. 

133 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

There is no doubt that before the coming of St. Augustine 
Christianity had been fully established in Britain, but persecu- 
tion drove the Christians westward, and their bishops found 
refuge in the wild fastnesses of Wales. At the close of the sixth 
century Gregory the Pope decided a mission must be sent to 
convert the pagan Saxons, and so in 596 Augustine set forth, 
at once to return dismayed at the terrors of his journey and 
mission. Gregory, however, would take no denial, and he at 
length, with forty companion monks, landed at Pegwell Bay, 
near Ramsgate. Ethelbert was King of Kent. He promised a 
hearing, and with Queen Bertha and her Christian chaplain, 
Bishop Lindhard, he received the new-comers somewhere in 
the Isle of Thanet. 

A picturesque procession soon arrived. First a silver cross 
and a painted figure of our Saviour borne aloft, then the monks 
and saint followed, and solemnly chanting a litany, approached 
the royal pair. 

Ethelbert listened attentively, and gave them permission to 
work and teach, and on Whit-Sunday, June 2nd, A.D. 597, he 
was baptised a Christian. The Missionary College close to 
Canterbury, which may be seen to-day, was established by 
Augustine as his abbey in those early days. 

Augustine soon became a bishop, returned to Aries for his 
consecration, and was given by Gregory " the care of all the 
Churches," and made head of the bishops. 

Differences of opinion naturally arose on various subjects 
as time went on, and many letters were sent to Gregory asking 
for help and advice. At length Augustine decided on a 
conference, and invited the bishops to meet him and each other 
to discuss their difficulties. 

Bishop Forrest Browne was the first to unhesitatingly decide 
that Gospel Oak was this historically interesting spot, 1 which 
the Venerable Bede writes of as " a place which is to this day 
called Saint Augustine's Oak ... on the borders of the 
Wiceii and the West Saxons." This point would be just 
half-way between St. Asaph and Canterbury, so equally 
convenient to both parties and so specially suitable for such an 
important event. The fixing of the date for Easter was one of 

1 This is not accepted by other authorities. 
134 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

the urgent problems requiring solution, amongst many others, 
and it would seem that each party was so convinced of its own 
view being the correct one, that agreement seemed well-nigh 
hopeless. Bede tells us that the Welsh bishops " did not comply 
with the entreaties, exhortations, and rebukes of Augustine," 
so the saint was at last driven to suggest that a test of miracle 
should be applied to settle the vexed question of authority. 
A blind man was therefore produced, and the test was the 
restoration by prayer of his eyesight. The Welsh were given 
the first chance, but their prayers proved unavailing. Augustine 
then began to pray, and the blind man immediately received 
his sight, proving St. Augustine's supernatural power. Still 
unconvinced, the Welsh declined to change their ancient 
customs, and begged for a second meeting with more of their 
colleagues present. 

Some time after this seven bishops and many learned men 
arrived, having visited a saintly hermit to ask his views. He 
shrewdly told them that " if Augustine was a man of God, to 
follow him," and when they inquired how they might be assured 
of that, he replied that our Lord had enjoined lowliness and 
meekness ; if Augustine exhibited those qualities they might 
accept his teaching, but if he were stern and haughty he was 
not of God. Again they asked, " And how shall we discern 
even this ? " The wise anchorite had probably formed his 
estimate of Augustine from the reports of his " exhortations and 
rebukes," and advised them to arrange that he should arrive 
first at the place of meeting ; if, when they appeared, he rose 
to greet them, well ; if, though they were more in number, 
he did not, they were to " despise " him. 

" So it turned out, Augustine remained seated. He offered 
that if they would follow the Roman custom in the administra- 
tion of baptism, would accept the Roman time for keeping 
Easter, and would co-operate with him in his missionary work, 
he would waive all the other matters. But they would do none 
of these things, nor receive him as their archbishop, considering 
that if he treated them with haughtiness while they were 
negotiating, it was not likely that he would be more amiable 
afterwards. Augustine seems to have justified their opinion 
by losing his temper, and prophesying subsequent disasters to 
them, which in the then state of the country were only too 

135 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

probable, and unfortunately duly befel, and so the meeting 
broke up." 1 

On the Ordnance Map at Down Ampney " The Oak " is 
marked, and it is highly probable that there the first meeting 
took place, and the second at Gospel Oak. At the former 
place there is still a well, said to be valuable in the healing of 
eyes, like the Holywell in North Wales, where to this day 
many hundreds of sufferers may be seen during the summer 
months diligently bathing their eyes in the potent waters. 

Having ventured so far in the direction of Crickdale, which 
town is well worthy of a competent pen to tell its interesting 
story, the writer would like to draw attention to the curious 
fact that carved on the stone walls inside St. Sampson's Church 
are four playing cards the heart, the diamond, the spade and 
the club. A year ago the following explanation came into her 
hands, given by a lady 2 of eighty summers, who had had it 
from an aunt in days gone by, which goes to prove that there 
is more meaning in a pack of cards than is generally supposed, 
and that the popular idea that they were invented to amuse 
a mad king of France may not be the correct one : 

" We begin with the diamonds : 

" A Diamond represents a figure in Eastern philosophy 
typifying the Supreme Power. It contains the shape of a cross. 
The King's weapons are in the background, the face turned to 
the right (see Ezekiel i. 12). The hands raised in blessing. 

" Hearts : 

" Faces turned the same way, weapons in the background 
but wielded supposed to represent angels or executive power. 

" Spades : 

" Faces turned to left, therefore represent devils, a Spade is 
a Heart turned upside down, with a handle. The Queen holds 
a Sceptre, the only one that does so, probably representing an 
evil sway, instead of the lawful one of the others, who hold 
flowers. The King wields his weapons. 

1 From The Gospel Oak, by J. Lee Osborn. 

* Mrs. Godley, mother of Lieut. -General Sir Alexander Godley, 
K.C.M.G.. etc. 

I 3 6 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

" Clubs : 

Faces turned both right and left, representing mankind. 
The Club is the Cubic measure of the Heart, and has a handle 
like the Spades. It also represents a trefoil emblem of the 
Trinity. 

" The King holds a Cross on a Globe, emblem of the Church 
in the World. All suggests mankind fallen, but to be raised 
by the Incarnation. All suits represent family life." 



137 



CHAPTER XVIII 

" THE ANGEL " REMOUNT DEPOT WAR WORK DEATH OF 
REV. JOHN VEYSEY INDUCTION OF REV. R. B. HARRISON 

THE Angel Hotel is a picturesque old building, and has seen 
many generations come and go since Henry Gleed was innkeeper 
there. Many a glass of ale has been drunk since then, more 
than was good for the men of Purton, no doubt, when the boast 
ot 6,000 gallons being drunk was made in one fair-time. 

The Magistrates used to sit there, and in Mr. Sadler's father's 
time they met once a month, Lord Radnor driving over from 
Coleshill to occupy the chair. For twenty-two years Mr. 
Wilding has been the genial host, and in the piping times of 
peace many hunting men found comfortable quarters at 
" The Angel." There is a large ballroom, in which entertainments 
were held. 

In an old building in the yard adjoining the Play Close 
may still be seen the coppers once used for brewing the ale, 
and part of the old boundary wall also remains. 

A game introduced, tradition says, by the charcoal burners 
(who came and settled in Pavenhill from the Forest of Dean) 
was " kick-shins." It was a simple game requiring no 
accessories, and, as the name suggests, was just to see who would 
stand longest in a " kick-shins " contest. Happily it has followed 
the more knightly back-swording or single-stick into oblivion. 
William Hedges, John Baker, William Slade, and James Daniels 
were names to conjure with in the days of the back-swording, 
and their descendants could no doubt give good account of 
themselves to-day in games of skill and courage. 

Purton boasts of Mr. James Kibblewhite, the famous 
champion runner, as one of her sons, and an account of his 
successes is worthy of record in our story of his native village. 

He was born at Purton on the 6th February, 1866, started 
his athletic career in 1884, and ran with phenomenal success 
for ten seasons. He was selected in 1890 to run in London 
before King Edward and Queen Alexandra, then Prince and 

138 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

Princess of Wales, and during this period of ten years he won 
prizes of no less than 1,200 in value. 

The following are amongst his successes : 

1886. Won Twenty-five Guineas Cup at Stourbridge. 

1887. Won Twenty-five Guineas Cup at Stourbridge. 

1888. Won Twenty Guineas Cup at Cheltenham. 

1888. Won Half Mile Championship of Wilts. 

1889. Won Half Mile Championship of Wilts. 
1889. Won One Mile Championship of England. 
1889. Won Twenty Guineas Cup at Cheltenham. 

1889. Broke Three Mile English Record and World Record in 
London. 

1889. Broke Three Mile Grass Record at Kennington Oval, 

London. 

1890. Won One Mile Championship of England. . 
1890. Won Four Mile Championship of England. 
1890. Won Ten Mile Championship of England. 

1890. Won Ten Mile Southern Counties Cross-country 

Championship. 

1890. Won Two Mile Northern Championship. 
1890. Won Half Mile Championship of Wilts. 
1890. Won Fifty Guineas Cup at Manchester. 
1890. Won the One Mile and Four Mile Championships, both 

on the same day ; also One Mile Scratch Race in 

London, and One Mile Handicap with 150 competitors 

from scratch the same day. 

1890. Won One Mile Championship of England. 

1891. Won Ten Mile Southern Counties Cross-country 

Championship. 

1891. Won National Cross-country Championship. 
1891. Won Half Mile Northern Championship. 

1891. Won Fifty Guineas Cup at Manchester. 

1892. Won Four Mile Championship of England. 
1892. Won Twenty Guineas Cup at Fro me. 

1892. Broke Four Mile Scotch Record at Glasgow. 

1893. Won Twenty Guineas Cup at Fro me. 

He is now employed by the Great Western Works at Swindon, 
and has a son who, also a promising athlete, has fought for 
his King and country. 

139 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

For twenty-five years Mr. Drew has been Purton's respected 
Schoolmaster, and Mrs. Woodward teaches and fondly cares 
for the infants. 

The members of the Parish Council are as follows : 

Chairman, Mr. Josiah Haskins. 

Vice-Chairman, Mr. John Greenham. 

Clerk, Mr. Wheeler. 

Messrs. E. L. Gardner, John Glass, Charles lies, Joseph 
Staley, F. Sutton, E. Titherley, W. Gough, A. Baker, B. Eatwell, 
John Greenaway, F. Adams, and Captain Richardson. 

Purton is represented on the Board of Guardians by Messrs, 
lies and Gardner and Mrs. Richardson. 

Churchwardens, Captain Richardson and Mr. F. Kempster. 

The Sidesmen are, Mr. H. Dash, Mr. J. Greenham, Mr. J. 
Glass, Mr. A. H. Barnes, Mr. Heath, Mr. J. Kibblewhite, Mr. W. 
Barnes, Mr. W. Hewer, Mr. R. G. Brown, Mr. Bull. 

Sexton, Mr. Davies. 

Relieving Officer, Mr. R. J. Webb. 

Sanitary Officer, Mr. Hiscock. 

Road Inspector, Mr. Godfrey. 

Postmen, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Daniels, Mr. Shurey and Mr. Scott. 

Parish Nurse, Miss Griffen. 

Postmistress, Mrs. Bennett. 

Rate Collector, Mr. Wheeler. 

Master and Matron at the Workhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Maundrel. 

Useful members of the Church choir are Mr. Webber, 
Mr. Foster, Mr. Barnes, Mr. O. Smith, Mr. A. Smith, and 
Mr. H. Smith. 

During the Great War a large Army Remount Depot was 
organised by Mr. W. H. Robson and his sons. It was an 
interesting though pitiful sight to see the horses being trained 
in happy and peaceful methods for the terrors awaiting them. 
Special trains brought large consignments to Purton, and, tied in 
sections of four, one might see perhaps a hundred of them process 
through the village, led by a band of willing helpers, to their 
destination on Manor Hill. Mrs. Bickford, Mrs. Bucknill, 
Mr. and Mrs. Finch, Mrs. Chappell, Miss Bushby, and Miss 
Pethick gave their services voluntarily to help in this work. 
A number of mules were also trained there, some of which, 

140 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

arriving quite intractable, left patterns of all that a mule 
should be. 

A War Savings Association was well thought out and 
organised, Mr. Drew, Mrs. Fox, Miss Elizabeth Redman and 
Miss M. Brown doing the chief part, assisted by a band of 
enthusiastic collectors, and a goodly sum weekly was rolled up. 

The Misses Kempster arranged a working party weekly 
for the Red Cross, and a girls' meeting for the same object 
was held also, with excellent results. 

A Woman's War Club was formed in October, 1914, and 
met weekly in the winter months during the war for mutual 
help and encouragement. 

Miss Warrender, joined by Miss Story-Maskelyne, and with 
Miss Walsh's help, ran the Women's Agricultural Committee. 

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Family Association looked after 
the needs of the wives and parents of those who had gone to 
play their part so nobly, and a common anxiety and, alas ! in 
many cases a common loss and sorrow, brought into touch 
those who otherwise would perhaps have never met. 

The writer occasionally took a nurse's place who required 
rest for some weeks in a military hospital, and found it an 
interesting experience, and her sister, Miss Stronge, spent 
nearly a year working at a canteen in France under the Y.M.C.A. 

In October, 1916, a long and well-spent life came to a close, 
as with much suffering bravely borne our beloved and respected 
Vicar, The Rev. John Veysey, after thirty-eight years of devoted 
work and service in the parish, was called to his rest. He had 
christened and married most of his parishioners who had come 
to man's estate, and there was many a sad heart when it was 
known that never again would his genial presence and kindly 
smile be seen in Purton. 

His family left shortly afterwards to reside in Swindon, 
Miss Veysey, who was, in spite of much illness and suffering, 
so helpful to her father, having acted as his secretary till his 
death. Miss Edith Veysey took an active part in the work of 
the parish, and was especially interested in the Church music ; 
on leaving she was presented by her numerous friends with a 
purse of gold and a watch bracelet. 

One misses, too, the old lady who (though rheumatic and 
stiff, and in spite of eighty summers having passed over 

141 



THE STORY OF PURTON 

her head) faithfully each month delivered her Parish 
Magazines. 

" The old order changeth, giving place to new," and on 
February i4th, 1917, we welcomed Mr. Veysey's successor in 
the ministry here, the Rev. Robert Birch Harrison, on the roll 
of Vicars the twenty-eighth. He was inducted by the 
Archdeacon of North Wilts, the Rev. Ravenscroft Stewart, 
and a large congregation attended the interesting and quaint 
ceremony, the two Churchwardens leading the procession, 
and many local clergy taking part in it. 

This brings " The Story of Purton " to the present day. Much 
has been left untold, but perhaps, such as it is, it may serve to 
awaken at least a deeper interest in our grand old Church, 
which, built and cared for by hands now long dead and forgotten, 
is now for the moment our heritage, " to have and to hold " 
for those who in due time shall take our places. 



142 



APPENDIX 



ROLL OF HONOUR, WITH DATES 



January. 


August. 


Bert Fisher . . . . ioth, 1918 


Arthur Bunce . . . . ioth, 1915 


John Selwood .. .. nth, 1917 


Sidney Smith . . . . ioth, 1915 


Herbert E. Martin, R.N. 3ist, 1918 


Albert Leech .. .. nth, 1918 




Ernest Kibblewhite isth, 1915 


February. 


Thomas R. Bartlett . . ifth, 1917 


Harry Lewis . . . . ist, 1917 
Frederick Staley . . i6th, 1919 


Frederick J. Mills . . 22nd, 1915 
George A. Paginton . . 25th, 1915 




September. 


March. 


Ernest H. Harrison . . i8th, 1918 


Anthony Brown, M.C. 4th, 1918 


John Ranby Brown . . 27th, 1918 


Mervyn Stronge Richardson 




igth, 1916 


October. 


Albert Lewis . . . . 2ist, 1918 


Percy Hedges . . . . 4th, 1917 


Edward Williams . . 25th, 1917 


Herbert S. Woolford 4th, 1918 


Frank Sutton . . . . soth, 1917 


Mervyn T. Webb . . 5th, 1918 




Herbert Martin . . . . 8th, 1918 


April. 


Edward G. Mills . . ioth, 1918 


Frederick Walter Sutton 


Robert S. Grimes . . I3th, 1916 


ioth, 1918 


Thomas Embury . . i7th, 1916 


Albert Bunce .. .. nth, 1919 


Stanley F. Haines . . igth, 1916 


Mervyn Green . . . . i6th, 1918 


Reginald Jefferies . . 23rd, 1914 




William Eveleigh . . 24th, 1918 


May. 




Victor Lovelock . . 8th, 1918 


November. 


Charles Landor . . . . i8th, 1918 


Edward John Woolford ist, 1918 




Joseph John Woolford 8th, 1918 


June. 


William Charles Parsons 25th, 1918 


Richard Beassant . . 6th, 1918 


Percy Cook . . . . 26th, 1918 


Richard Selwood . . 7th, 1917 


Edward Harry Hedges 28th, 1916 


Frank Merchant . . 24th, 1918 


Frank Burgess . . . . 28th, 1916 




Frederick Nelson Daniells 


July. 


3oth, 1917 


Harry Matthews . . 2nd, 1916 


December. 


Edward Curtis . . . . 6th, 1916 


Edwin Saunders . . 4th, 1918 


John Tuck . . . . 7th, 1916 


William J. Haynes . . ioth, 1917 


Percy Charles Matthews 


Leonard Dunsford . . I7th, 1916 


i5th, 1915 


Albert Parsons . . . . 27th, 1915 



143 



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